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Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1926. Reprinted 
January, 1927; July, 1931; February, 1936. 



Anyone who is concerned with the applications of psy- 
chology becomes convinced that the mental life of an in- 
dividual cannot be understood without taking into account 
the social environment in which the individual lives. The 
fashion of one's clothes and the form of one's religion, with 
all the intermediate social adjustments, such as methods of 
communication and methods of cooperation in industry, 
are dictated by the customs and traditions of the group. 
The author of this book became convinced of the necessity of 
studying social contributions to mental life when preparing 
a volume on psychology for teachers in 1903. The foun- 
dation for his thinking was undoubtedly laid by the teach- 
ings of Wilhelm Wundt, whose lectures and volumes on 
social psychology constitute the most elaborate contribu- 
tions which have ever been made in this field. 

The chapter on the alphabet in the present book is a 
reworking of one of the chapters in the book of 1903. The 
chapter on number is an extension of the corresponding 
chapter in the earlier work. 

In the interval since 1903, the author has canvassed the 
substance of this volume from time to time in advanced 
courses on social psychology and has incorporated some 
portions of the material into articles and discussions in the 
field of educational psychology. It is his belief that the 
principles here laid down have broader applications than 
they can find in a volume on education ; he has therefore 


prepared the general statement which appears in this book 
both as a foundation for his further writings in educational 
psychology and as a suggestion of a basic method for other 
social sciences. 

It remains to acknowledge obligations to the publishers 
and authors who have kindly permitted the use of quota- 
tions from their books. Acknowledgments are made in 
full in footnotes throughout the text. The publishers 
who have given permission to quote are as follows : D. 
Appleton & Company; Cambridge University Press; 
Chapman and Hall ; Doubleday, Page & Company ; En- 
cyclopaedia Britannica; Ginn and Company; Ingersoll 
Watch Company; Longmans, Green & Company; John 
W. Luce & Company ; The Macmillan Company ; Methuen 
& Company; Oxford University Press; G, P. Putnam's 
Sons ; G. Schirmer, Inc. ; Walter Scott Publishing Company ; 
Charles Scribner's Sons ; Triibner & Company. 

C. H. J. 

February, 1926. 

















THE ART OF Music 218 










I. The Field of Consciousness with a Single Center of 

Attention ........ 7 

II. The Field of Consciousness with Two Centers of 

Attention ........ 8 

III. The Field of Consciousness in the Case of an Arti- 

san ......... 13 

IV. The Field of Consciousness in the Case of an 

Explorer 23 

V. Chaldean Cuneiform Numbers .... 87 

VI. A System of Egyptian Numbers .... 88 

VII. The Abacus 95 

VIII. An Ojibwa Love-letter 161 

IX. Ancient and Modern Chinese Symbols . . .163 

X. Origin of the Letter M 167 

XI. Roman Capitals 169 

XII. Roman Cursive ....... 171 

XIII. Uncials 172 

XIV. Merovingian Cursive . . . . . .174 

XV. Anglo-Saxon Writing of the Eighth Century . .175 

XVI. Number of Issues of Newspapers and Periodicals 

Published in Various Years .... 183 
XVII. Number of Inhabitants in the United States 

According to Decennial Census .... 184 

XVIII. Drawings and Carvings of Prehistoric Man . . 243 

XIX. Alligator Designs 248 







The purpose of this book is to concentrate attention on 
the fact that social influences are of the highest importance 
in determining the character of human thought and conduct. 
Respect for property, industry, devotion to systematic 
daily routine, and all the other virtues which distinguish 
civilized man from his savage ancestors have been achieved 
through long generations of community life. These are not 
traits which belong to untrained human nature. Individ- 
uals exhibit, to be sure, even in civilized communities, many 
characteristics which are due to their personal inheritances, 
but inherited traits are modified and in some cases wholly 
transformed by the demands of society. 

Emphasis on the social forces which operate to determine 
the course of human development has not been common in 
treatises on psychology. The reason is that an individual's 
organs of sense and an individual's habits are so concrete and 
readily accessible to the student of mental life that they 
have pushed the apparently abstract concepts of social 
consciousness and collective will into the background. 
Present-day psychology is in the main a psychology of the 



individual. Even where social tendencies come under 
consideration it is the custom to attribute them to certain 
so-called instincts such as gregariousness, communicative- 
ness, and gang spirit. These instincts are described as per- 
sonal traits which all men bring into the world through 
inheritance and out of which in some mysterious fashion 
spring nations and languages and codes of morals. 

The attempt will be made in the pages which follow to 
develop a system of psychology which will show that social 
consciousness instead of being something vague and in- 
tangible is one of the most active and potent facts in the 
world. Social consciousness expresses itself in certain 
institutions which are quite as real as the individual's 
habits and organs of sense. Language, for example, is 
such an institution. It is the product of long ages of co- 
operative effort. It is not the expression of an individual's 
instincts. The individual is indeed equipped by inheri- 
tance with vocal and auditory apparatus, but this native 
equipment is used by the American child in one way and by 
the Chinese child in a very different way. The particular 
institutional form which language has assumed in any given 
country cannot be explained without taking into account 
the united contributions of a great many intelligences. 

It is a striking fact that the scientific study of language 
has treated this institution as though it were a concrete 
reality detached from the human minds which gave it birth. 
Philology has traced the history of words and formulated 
the laws of syntax and in so doing has very largely omitted 
all mention of the minds which use words and sentences 
as means of controlling thought and action. 

What is true of language is even more true of such eco- 
nomic institutions as money and credit. The economists 
write about the various materials which have been used 
as mediums of exchange, about movements of gold, and 


about the laws which govern values. In all their writing 
they make little or no reference to the human desires and 
interrelations which brought money into being and have 
directed its evolution. Nor do they carry their science far 
enough to show the influence of money on human intel- 
lectual and emotional life. They ignore the fact that it 
has become a powerful social force reacting on the individual 
and determining in large measure his thinking and behavior. 

What is needed in order that we may arrive at a more 
adequate understanding of human beings and of the social 
and economic world in which they live is a psychology 
which gives equal consideration to institutions and indi- 
viduals. The present volume will not undertake to dis- 
charge the comprehensive task of expounding such a complete 
science. A somewhat specialized treatment of a few of 
the social institutions will be attempted in order to exhibit 
the methods of this branch of psychology and more es- 
pecially for the purpose of indicating certain practical 
applications which grow directly out of the discussion of 
social institutions. 

Throughout this book the term "social institution" will be 
used in a broad way to cover all those accumulations of 
social capital which have been produced in the course of 
community life. For example, the word " institution " covers 
the fact that by combined effort men have produced tools. 
The modern world of technical devices is just as truly an 
exhibition of social intelligence as a blow with the fist is 
a concrete manifestation of the way in which a human 
nervous system reacts. The tools which man has invented 
are powerful influences in determining the course of civi- 
lized life. Through the long ages while man has been 
inventing tools and learning to use them, his mode of indi- 
vidual reaction has been undergoing a change. He is no 
longer absorbed in direct attack on the prey which fur- 


nishes him food. He does not develop more skill in the use 
of claws and teeth in order that he may cope with his en- 
vironment. He has adopted an indirect mode of action. 
He uses instruments which he has devised or borrowed 
from his forefathers or from his neighbor. Tools have 
become a part of his world. They are as real and as impor- 
tant as climate and trees and other facts of nature which 
are produced without the aid of human intelligence. 

Other institutions are less material in their character. 
Government, for example, is .the device which social intel- 
ligence has evolved to direct and check human behavior so 
that there shall be harmony within the group. Govern- 
ment is not made of wood and metals, as are tools, but it is a 
real fact in the world. To think of the strength of individ- 
ual muscles as a phenomenon important to a science of 
psychology and to think of the strength of government as 
something quite abstract and negligible is seriously to 
invert values. Government is the embodiment of the 
experience of the race in a system of regulations and prac- 
tices which have accumulated through centuries and have 
acquired a kind of independent reality which justifies their 
recognition as entities distinct from the material world and 
distinct from individuals, but no less significant than these 
tangible concrete realities. 

Other examples of what is meant by the word " insti- 
tutions" will be presented in the course of later chapters. 
For our present purposes it is enough to indicate that the 
type of psychology which is to be presented in this volume 
is one which may properly be described as the psychology 
of social institutions. 



It has been the practice of historical anthropology to 
designate the successive steps of civilization by the names 
of the materials used in making weapons and tools. Thus 
the earliest ages are called stone ages; later came ages of 
bronze and of iron ; our own age is often spoken of as the age 
of steel. Another method of classifying epochs in human 
evolution is by reference to the predominant industry. 
There was a period when men supplied themselves with 
food chiefly by hunting. Later came agriculture and 
herding and finally manufacture. 

These methods of classifying different stages of civi- 
lization have the virtue of being based on objective facts. 
One can readily determine by an examination of the remains 
found in caves and on the sites of ancient villages what 
materials man was using in the construction of his imple- 
ments. There is, however, a disadvantage in emphasizing 
material facts and regarding these as the typical facts in 
human history. The truth is that man of the stone age 
was limited to the use of stone because his experience had 
not yet reached the state where he was acquainted with 
metals. The physical world contained metal in the stone 
age even as it does to-day. Metal did not come into human 
life until man devised methods of securing and using it, 
The student of anthropology, in noting the transition from 
stone to bronze, is not dealing merely or chiefly with a 



physical reality; he is dealing with a change in human 

The statement can perhaps be put in its most striking 
form by pointing out that the animals never make any 
tools even though they can see stone quite as readily as could 
primitive man. It is not the objective material which sug- 
gests the construction of tools; the invention of tools 
depends on the inner subjective recognition of the pos- 
sibility of using stone in a new way. A stone implement is 
the creation of man's genius, not a material fact. 

The same kind of a statement can be made with regard 
to the evolution of industry. Man was at first a hunter. 
As such, his experiences and his emotions were little different 
from those of the animals which live by the capture of prey. 
He sought as food that which nature offered him. Grad- 
ually he evolved the attitude of looking into the future and 
of seeing the advantages of deliberate domestication of 
animals and of cultivation of the soil. His foresight trans- 
formed his mode of life. He substituted for dependence 
on wild game the patient cooperative modes of life which 
have led to the accumulation of that which will support life 
in greater comfort or that which in the aggregate we call 
wealth. Wealth has in turn reacted on its possessors until 
an entirely new world has been set up. This world has its 
material side one can see wealth and handle it, but its 
origin was mental and directly traceable to the inner thought 
processes of men. 

Let us turn from such general considerations to the study 
of the details of the evolution of tools. The archaeologists 
tell us that long periods of time were consumed in achieving 
the first successes in mechanical invention. Man did not 
suddenly break away from the animal method of behavior. 
When an animal attacks an enemy or removes an obstacle 
from its path, its behavior is of a simple, direct type ; it uti- 


lizes its paws or teeth and its direct nervous and muscular 
energy. Such was also the behavior of primitive man. He 
used his hands and teeth backed by his personal strength. He 
did not think, as modern man does, of the possibility of uti- 
lizing some object to reinforce his own muscles. The use of 
levers and sharp weapons came very gradually. 

The psychological analysis of what went on in these early 
stages can be introduced by a description of the pattern of 
consciousness which appears when a man or an animal deals 
directly with an object of his desire without the use of any 
tool. One can draw on personal experience for such a 

^-Conscious-ness of 6tTCUT> 

Object Desired-. 

J ^ / /\ \^rr^j /\ \ \ ^Desire 

Recognition of 1 Position 



description. Each of us is constantly reaching out with 
his hands to grasp some object. At the center of attention 
is the visual experience of the thing desired. Second, there 
is present in consciousness a recognition of the direction 
and distance through which the hand must be moved. 
Third, there is the desire for the object. Surrounding these 
conspicuous and clearly recognizable elements of con- 
sciousness is a background of feelings and sensations 
which come from the whole organism and constitute the 
mental stage on which the act is performed. Figure I rep- 
resents roughly the field of consciousness during one of these 
direct experiences. At the center is a dark spot represent- 



ing the visual impression of the object. Around this center 
are lighter circular areas standing for the recognition of 
the position of the object and the desire to possess it ; and 
finally beyond these lie a series of circles representing the 
experiences of strain and effort which make up the total 
mental situation. 

If we try to picture the situation which appears when a 
simple tool is used, we find it necessary to elaborate the 
figure by introducing two centers of attention. The actor 



Relation of Tool to Object 



must still give heed to the object of his desire. He must at 
the same time grasp the tool and consciously direct its 
movements. Part of his attention will have to turn to this 
new center of experience. As he grasps the tool, he will 
have sensations in his hand of a type wholly different from 
the visual sensations which come from the object of his 
desire. As he moves the tool toward the object, there will 
have to be enough attention given to the relation between 
the two materially to increase the complexity of the pattern 
of consciousness. Figure II indicates the double character 
of attention in this case. 


Consciousness cannot take on this more complex pattern 
except in an individual capable of breadth of attention. The 
reason why animals do not use tools is that they are capable 
of holding in consciousness only one center of attention. 
Speaking in terms of their nervous systems, we may say that 
the paths through the central nervous system of an animal 
are so direct that there is no possibility of including in a 
single performance two or more centers of excitation. The 
animal is wholly occupied in responding to a single impres- 
sion. If an animal is offered a tool and gives any attention 
to it, consciousness is temporarily drawn away from the 
first center of attention and turns for the time being ex- 
clusively to the new object. 

The following experiment shows how limited is the 
range of attention even in the higher animals. A monkey 
was fastened in his cage and a banana was placed just 
out of his reach. He extended himself in every possible 
way in the effort to secure the food, but failed. After a 
time he was shown a stick and given a demonstration of 
the way in which the stick could be used to lengthen his 
reach. Monkey-fashion he became interested in the stick. 
But while this new object of attention was in the focus of 
consciousness, the banana had no place. The monkey 
could not deal at the same time with both banana and 
stick. He never put the two together, that is, he never 
learned to use the tool ; his range of attention could include 
only a single object. 

There are numerous occasions when human conscious- 
ness is of the unifocal type. For example, when one tries to 
catch a companion in play, there is only one all-absorbing 
center of attention. It is to be noted that such a situation 
is psychologically very simple and we recognize it as making 
very little draft on intelligence. The moment play rises 
to a level which involves the use of some implement, the 


demands on skill and on consciousness become more exact- 
ing and require a wider range of attention. 

The mental fact which has been described by the state- 
ment that man has a wide range of attention, has its defi- 
nite anatomical condition in the larger size of the human 
cerebrum. If we compare the cerebrum of man with that 
of even his closest relatives in the animal world, we find 
that man has a much more highly developed organ. The 
animal kingdom has been gradually evolving this elab- 
orate upper part of the nervous system. The lowest ver- 
tebrates, such as the fishes, have nervous centers which 
control the organs of locomotion and the jaws and provide 
for the reception of stimulations coming from the organs of 
sense. These lower animal forms do not, however, have 
any large number of central nerve cells. Their meager 
cerebrums do not provide space for complex nervous pro- 
cesses. It is literally true that they have no nervous tissue 
which can be devoted to attention to involved relations. 
All their acts are direct and without premeditation. It 
requires higher nerve centers removed from direct con- 
nection with the organs of sense and the organs of reaction 
to provide for elaborate forms of thought and attention, 
As we come up the scale of animal life, we find the higher, 
indirect central nervous structures gradually increasing in 
size. The process of thus providing for an inner world, 
where readjustments can be worked out with less and less 
regard to direct conditions and with more and more regard to 
complex inner patterns, goes forward until in man the inner 
world with its many factors and their complex combinations 
becomes the dominant and characteristic fact. 

Man continues to use the lower nervous centers for many 
of his responses to stimulation. For example, he swal- 
lows food when it gets into his mouth just as any animal 
would. The lower nervous centers take care of this oper- 


ation. In like manner the fingers close on any object that 
is grasped in direct response to sensory stimulations, the act 
requiring no thought or meditation. The important fact 
about human life, however, is the complete subordination 
to the higher processes of these direct forms of reaction. It is 
the higher processes which raise men above the animals and 
make possible the mode of life which includes the use of tools. 
Let us consider how the broader attention of man oper- 
ated at the time that the first tool was discovered. The 
term " discovered" rather than the term " invented" is 
used advisedly; the first club was nothing but a gnarled 
root picked up in the forest or the bone of some animal used 
to reinforce the blow of the arm ; the first knife was a sharp 
stone or the talon of some animal. It seems to be a very 
simple act to pick up one of these tools provided by nature, 
but it is not. The complexity of the performance lies in 
the fact that the natural object must be taken out of the 
setting in which it is presented to experience and must be 
put into another setting by the active imagination of an 
intelligent being. Animals have been cut by sharp stones 
from the beginning of time, but the relation of the animal 
to the stone has always continued to be the relation set up 
by nature. The animal has snarled at the stone that cut 
its foot and has gone on its way. Man had the range of 
attention and the power of imagination to see the sharp 
stone in a new setting. If it cut him, he might take it in 
his hand and make it cut his enemies or serve him in other 
ways. This power of relating objects in a new way, which 
we call imagination, has its seat in the higher nervous centers. 
In these higher centers the stimulus which led the animal 
to the simple act of growling and passing on was combined 
with other stimuli and a new and elaborate preparation for 
behavior was worked out, with the result that human action 
rose to a new level. 


Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the fact that within 
the human cerebrum a new world is created. Objects are 
put together in this world in a new way ; they are united 
as ideas in the brains of men and afterwards through human 
efforts the outer world is correspondingly rearranged. The 
influence of man in the world is so great that he must be 
recognized even by the most objective sciences as a factor 
in transforming reality. Man has gradually cultivated 
a higher power through the invention of tools. He has 
ultimately reached the stage where he can redirect the 
course of rivers. He has brought great masses of rock and 
metal together into what he calls buildings and has con- 
verted the barren plain into a dwelling-place for his tribe. 
He has tunneled mountains and has made for himself devices 
for flying in the air. All these achievements he has attained 
by rearranging the materials which for the animals lie 
inert and unorganized in the forest and in the rocks. It is 
man's power of recombining materials which has built up 

The first tool is significant, therefore, both as evidence 
that the slow process of animal evolution has produced a 
new species, a species with a big cerebrum, and as the 
first step in a new method of dealing with the world. As 
soon as man discovered the advantage which came to him 
among the animals from the first crude tool, he began his 
upward ascent toward the mechanical arts and away from 
the methods of direct physical adaptation which are charac- 
teristic of the lower levels of life. No longer is it neces- 
sary for man, by the processes of natural selection, to de- 
velop powerful muscles and long claws or sharp teeth. His 
cerebrum puts him absolutely out of the competition where 
physical prowess and organs of attack are needed. 

We must come back, however, to the early stages of 
human progress during which this new method of adaptation 



was perfected. After man had picked up the first club 
and used it to his advantage, he took the next step, which 
began to change him from a mere discoverer into a man- 
ufacturer. He began to improve on nature. He made 
the handle of his club smooth and small enough so that 
his hand could readily close over it. He made the strik- 
ing end as vicious as possible by adding thorns and 
sharp stones. These changes required the exercise of the 
same active imagination that was employed in recog- 
nizing the usefulness of the weapon, but they required also 





something higher. The improver of a weapon must have 
foresight enough to be interested in his weapon even when 
he is not aroused to action by the sight of his prey. He 
must have in mind motives strong enough to keep him at 
work during long periods of time and must be patient enough 
to prepare for action when there is no visible motive for what 
he is doing. 

The artisan stage of human evolution is sketched in 
Figure III. This shows the prey which is to be attacked 
as outside the field of direct consciousness and only vaguely 
connected with it. The weapon itself is one of the centers 
of attention. Coordinate with this are other centers of 


attention which are filled with ideas for improvements. 
Two such are represented in the figure and can be de- 
scribed as ideas of a smoother handle and a more vicious 
attacking end. 

It is significant in this connection to note that primitive 
man thought of his weapons in very personal terms. The 
objects on which he had bestowed much effort and which 
he had used on crucial occasions throughout life came to be 
parts of his personality in a very intimate sense. When he 
died, these personal possessions were buried with him. 
They were not made for use by any hand other than his own. 

There are many directions in which the effort to make tools 
had a profound effect on human evolution. Some members 
of the tribe, presumably those who took interest in delicate 
manipulations rather than in the activities of warfare and the 
chase, began to devote themselves exclusively to the mak- 
ing of weapons. We see in this fact the beginnings of spe- 
cialization. The figures which have been used to represent 
the conscious processes involved in the use of tools show 
a widening of the range of attention. Figure III shows 
also the converse fact, namely, that there are limits set to 
this expansion of attention. The human mind will always 
be too narrow to accommodate with equal hospitality the 
interests of the hunter and those of the artisan. The 
hunter is full of interest in the game which he is to follow. 
Perhaps at times he may be willing to spend a little energy 
in the care of his weapon, but his patience with this sort of 
work is small. On the other hand, the type of mind which 
becomes absorbed in the refinements of tool-making is not 
the type of mind which finds the activities of the chase 
congenial. There is in mature human minds a tendency 
toward particular forms of attention and corresponding 
forms of behavior. The mind that is full of ideas about 
handles and cutting edges will tend to drop the idea of 


prey out of its range of immediate consideration. This is 
the original basis of the division of labor, which in later 
epochs has come to be a dominant fact in civilization. 

In these facts we see also the reasons why individuals 
are forced to develop community interests and cooperation 
as soon as life reaches a level where direct behavior is 
replaced by indirect, complex forms of action. The simple 
individual, dependent upon his direct modes of behavior 
for the maintenance of life, is self-sufficient. The individual 
who begins to specialize because of his interest in a single 
complex form of behavior will have to cultivate methods 
of social cooperation or he will perish. 

It is not possible to draw a sharp line and say that on the 
one side lies animal behavior of the simple direct type and 
on the other human behavior of the complex social type. 
There are cases here and there where animals exhibit higher 
forms of behavior. Animal families have some of the ele- 
ments of division of labor in their organization and there 
are animal species which have attained limited skill in 
rearranging the materials furnished by their environment. 
The important fact for our study is that animals do 
not adopt the higher methods of adaptation while man 
does. However slowly man arrived at the higher level of 
action, he ultimately substituted tools for natural direct 
forms of reaction to such an extent that the use of tools 
became his dominant mode of adjustment to his environ- 
ment. Somewhere along this line of evolution man stepped 
out of the world of primitive action into the world of the 
acquired arts. There may be something natural and spon- 
taneous about picking up a club in the forest and using it 
to attack one's prey. We might admit that man was still 
following his instincts in improving his weapon, though 
the instinct would have to be described as highly complex ; 
but the invention of machinery and the attainment of those 


higher levels of action which interest us most, are far above 
mere instinct. Man long since left behind instinctive per- 
formances as his chief forms of reaction and ascended into 
a world of consciously guided and socially organized be- 

The distinctly social and institutional character of even 
the earliest stages of human evolution becomes evident when 
we consider that the human arts show, in contradistinction 
to anything that we find elsewhere in the animal world, a 
tendency toward cumulative enrichment. Men evidently 
watched one another and profited by one another's achieve- 
ments. Whether this is due to the mastery of that all- 
important social institution, language, or to other human 
endowments, the facts of anthropology make it clear that 
man was very early social in a sense in which no animal has 
ever been social. Man is social in the sense that each 
new generation has profited by what was achieved before 
and has through social inheritance developed tools of ever 
increasing effectiveness. 

An understanding of the method by which this cumulative 
effect was produced is of the greatest importance for the 
psychology of institutions. We must digress from our 
historical narrative, therefore, to discuss the way in which a 
tool affects the development of human experience and 
behavior. We have seen how a tool may be thought to 
have been discovered and improved by some primitive 
human being. Let us now think of a second person who 
is unskilled but sees the tool. The experience of seeing the 
tool is likely to be most impressive if the unskilled person 
observes the owner of the tool in action and notes the 
advantages which the owner of the tool achieves because of 
its use. Seen under such circumstances the tool becomes 
the external embodiment of a human thought. The maker 
of the tool has put into material form an idea and the idea 


works. The unskilled observer cannot look directly into the 
consciousness of the tool maker, but the tool as an expres- 
sion of an idea becomes a medium of communication. The 
receiving mind gets from the tool the idea which was origi- 
nally in another mind. 

The commerce of mind with mind through the medium of 
external realities is the great achievement which has raised 
man absolutely above the level of the lower animals. The 
adaptation of the human race to the physical environment 
has followed a path that has never been followed by any 
other animal because the human race has worked out its 
adaptations through group activities and through long 
generations. It is this fact that has made human evolution 
absolutely unique; the accumulation of experience from 
generation to generation through social institutions has 
brought into the world a new order of reality. Institutions 
are crystallized ideas. They make possible the transmission 
of ideas. They are detached from the minds in which they 
originated and are capable of affecting other minds. 

While we emphasize the enormous importance of in- 
stitutions as means of transmitting ideas, it is essential to 
our understanding of human history that we keep clearly 
in mind the fact that the transmission of ideas was at first 
very slow and uncertain. Many an invention of human 
genius has gone to waste because careless observers have 
failed to get the message which some embodied idea might 
have conveyed to more alert minds. The effects of institu- 
tions such as we have been describing did not begin to 
accumulate rapidly until men arrived at a recognition of the 
advantages of imitation as a method of adaptation. 

We shall have opportunity later to come back to this 
discussion of the way in which institutions have reacted 
on human experience. We return now to a further study 
of the evolution of tools. 


We have seen that division of labor results from the 
limitations of individual attention and interest. As soon as 
evolution produced the specialist devoting his efforts to 
the manufacture of weapons, certain further consequences 
appear. The specialist is provided, by virtue of his useful- 
ness to the group, with the leisure which makes it possible 
for him to devise a new kind of improvement. He invented 
the idea of making his wares out of the most durable mate- 
rials. Perhaps here again we should say that he discovered 
the idea or possibly hit upon it through accident. What- 
ever the process of arriving at this piece of wisdom, the 
manufacturer of weapons came ultimately to the extensive 
use of stone. The art of stone construction is a very high 
product of evolution, though it seems to our modern think- 
ing relatively primitive. Before man could become an ar- 
tisan in stone, he had to get the idea of stone implements 
clearly in mind and this he did not do until he reached the 
level of group life. The spear-head maker, for example, 
must have belonged to a spear-throwing tribe. He must 
have invented the device of binding a piece of sharp stone 
to the attacking end of his spear as a very radical modifica- 
tion of the simpler wooden weapon which his tribe was accus- 
tomed to use. Later probably much later he thought 
of shaping the stone ; then he began to look for those kinds 
of stones which were easiest to chip off into sharp and sym- 
metrical forms. 

The long ages during which men were perfecting the arts 
of stone-work give clear evidence that we are dealing with 
a genuine process of evolution, a process of evolution which 
is distinctly human and distinctly social. There is no 
justification for talking about human progress during these 
vast stretches of time in terms of animal instinct or indi- 
vidual impulses. It means nothing to say that the spear- 
head maker hunted out obsidian beds in response to a native 


impulse of acquisitiveness or curiosity. The fact is that an 
entirely new type of thinking and an entirely new interest 
were developed, and older and more primitive types of 
consciousness gave place to the new pattern. 

The essentially social character of the evolution which 
produced the arts can be brought out by calling attention 
to the fact that the evolution of the artisan's pattern of 
consciousness could not go forward until human ingenuity 
created certain institutions with which neither the artisan 
nor the hunter was concerned as a part of his own trade, 
but which both found absolutely essential as sustaining 
activities related to their chief undertakings. These col- 
lateral institutions were the primitive forms of exchange. 
The hunter had food in excess of his personal needs. The 
spear-head maker had stone points but lacked food. It 
seems very simple in this day, when the customs of exchange 
and the means for carrying on trade are fully established 
and understood, to suggest that the hunter and the artisan 
enter into a mutually advantageous relation and exchange 
their products. For primitive man, wholly unsupplied with 
money, unsupplied with instruments of measurement, and, 
above all, unacquainted with the idea of exchange, the situa- 
tion was by no means as readily adjusted as it is to-day. 

Exchange is secondary from the point of view of the 
hunter and artisan but primary from the point of view of 
the group. Without exchange, specialization would have 
to be given up. There would be no spear-head maker be- 
cause everyone would be so absorbed in the mere getting 
of food that there would be little surplus attention to 
devote to anything except the direct activities of catching 
prey. Exchange provides a method of giving to each indi- 
vidual in the group the advantages of combined intelligence 
and skill. When men unite in social groups, they gain ad- 
vantages which encourage them to invent new ways of 


promoting cooperation. Exchange is an institution which 
promotes specialization and cooperation. Animals steal 
from one another; they fight for possession of desirable 
things, but they cannot rise to the high level of comparing 
commodities and bartering what they have for other things 
which they need. 

In the next chapter we shall take up in some detail the 
evolution of systems of exchange. At this point we are 
concerned merely to note the general fact that institutional 
methods of life beget new institutions. 

The materials with which the first artisans worked were 
of various types. We may think of these early manufac- 
turers as experimenters in materials. 

Mason supplies the following description of one of the 
early arts that of pottery. 

In the last and simplest analysis, sun-dried adobe or bricks are 
the most primitive things made of clay. They are masses of 
rude paste worked up by hand, not at first in moulds, and dried in 
the sun. In all rainless regions of the globe they exist. In Baby- 
lon, in Egypt, in Peru, in Mexico, it is the same story. Given 
the material and the arid climate, and the thing is done, by that 
universal law, in human affairs as in nature, of following the lines 
of least resistance. This may not be the oldest treatment of the 
material since climate is a ruling factor, but it is the least compli- 
cated method of handling it. 

The next simplest process is to be found in vogue in our day 
among certain Eskimo tribes on the tundras about the peninsula of 
Alaska. These cunning people, when most spread out, occupied 
the northern shores of America from Southern Labrador all the 
way around to Kadiak Island in Alaska. Almost everywhere they 
utilized fire only in the lamp-stove. Forests being absent, and even 
drift-wood being scarce, their only resource has been to burn 
the blubber or fat of the seal, whale, walrus, and other animals 
that abounded in that area. There was no lack of fuel. Of the 
mosses and vegetable fibres that came in their way they fabri- 


cated the wicks. For a lamp they took a slab of soapstone about 
two inches thick, straight along one margin, and curved on the 
other. This was excavated to form a shallow dish, in which the 
blubber was put, and the wick. The Eskimo knew both the 
firesticks and the flint and pyrites method of exciting fire, so 
it was never difficult to make a blaze. Now, there are in the 
west, regions where no soapstone exists of which to make lamp- 
stoves, so the ever quick-witted housewives knead clay with 
blood and hair, and form it into a thick shallow dish or bowl with 
the hand, and after drying it only a little, proceed to make thereof 
a true lamp-stove. The constant use of this simple device hardens 
it by burning, so that there is no need of firing the ware at all. 
Nothing save a sun-dried brick could be simpler. The first real 
potter seems in this way to have been a fabricator of lamps and 
stoves. Now and then rings are incised around these objects, 
commencing already in the most simple manner the process of 
decoration. No rims, nor handles, nor legs, nor bases, nor paint, 
nor modelled ornaments occur. We are behind the history of 
the art. l 

Such accounts as these show man in the long process of 
learning to master the simplest substances of his environ- 
ment. They show the gradual evolution of a constructive 

While the men of the tribe were learning to work in stone, 
the women were developing the art of weaving, which 
seems always to have been their specialty. For this pur- 
pose they used the fibrous parts of plants and afterwards 
the hair and hides of animals. The clothing and basketry 
of primitive peoples show that this branch of constructive 
art is very ancient. 

As a part of the constructive activities of the earliest 
peoples, we find also many forms of wood-working. The 
shield, as a protective instrument made of wood or of a 

1 MASON, OTIS T. Origins of Invention, pp. 154-155; Charles Scribner's 
Sons, 1905. 


combination of wood and hides, is one of the first human 
inventions to grow out of the simple unmodified stick which 
man picked up in the woods and used for both attack and 
protection. Pitt-Rivers l found among the Australians the 
simplest form of the shield which is nothing but a stick 
used to parry the darts of the assailant. This stick is 
afterwards gradually modified after the following manner : 
"an aperture was then made in the stick for the hand, and 
the face of it became broader, developing into a shield, the 
narrow ends, however, being still retained for parrying/' 1 

The development of the bow is lost in antiquity. It was 
in use throughout the stone age, but it certainly represents 
either one of the most fortunate discoveries of primitive man 
or one of the most striking examples of his constructive genius. 

All of the examples cited are impressive to the psychol- 
ogist because they show man undergoing a transformation 
no less radical than that which he produced in the materials 
with which he worked. Man, the maker of weapons, man, 
the artisan, is no longer merely an impulsive pursuer of 
game. He is no longer the nature-man. He is the patient 
toiler absorbed in perfecting the material in his hand and in 
making it match the idea which he has worked out in his 
thought. He is the socialized member of a tribe exchanging 
ideas and learning the lesson of intelligent cooperation. 

Our conclusions can be further supported by following 
the evolution of tools into its later stages. The artisan, 
having learned the value of stone and other materials, 
sometimes turns into a prospector, looking for the kinds of 
raw materials which will best serve his art. Very shortly 
the prospector forgets all else in his eager quest. A diagram 
of the prospector's consciousness will illustrate what has 
happened. Figure IV shows the object of attack pushed 

1 MYRES, J. L. (editor) The Evolution of Culture and Other Essays by the 
late Lt.-Gen. A. Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, p. 37; The Clarendon Press, 1906. 



far out of the prospector's thinking. Not only so, but the 
weapon also is for the time being thought of not at all or, 
at most, very vaguely. The quest for flint or obsidian or 
for the reeds with which to weave a mat or basket is the 
all-absorbing interest. Landmarks which will guide the 
quest are matters of attention on the part of the prospector ; 
the desire to find treasures of raw material and the deter- 
mination to hold them in secret possession are the emotional 




Object oj" Attack 

x ldeas of Value 

accompaniments of the search. This is a new form of the 
hunt. One needs only to read the romances of California 
and the Klondike to understand how this type of hunting can 
absorb a human mind. We know that among savages there 
were tribal secrets which were kept closely locked in the 
minds of the selected few, and among these secrets the 
most important were those which related to quarries of 
stone, to beds of clay, and to sources of the best wood for 
making bows and arrows. The possessor of these secrets took 
a place in the tribe hardly less important than that taken by 
the leader in war. 


The psychology of the prospector is the psychology of a 
man who understands values ; that is, he sees in raw materials 
the possibilities of power which are not directly revealed. 
The prospector keeps this abstract idea in mind long enough to 
devote days to exploration. During these days he is controlled 
in all of his behavior by a mental incentive which is infinitely 
higher than the direct concrete desire of the hungry hunter. 
In order to make the abstractness of the prospector's think- 
ing more evident, we may contrast the human seeker after 
treasure with the animals. Could the wolf be induced to 
start on a quest for a stone? Not at all. The wolf must 
have a direct sensory stimulus ; he must feel hunger and he 
must catch the scent of prey before he will undertake vigorous 
action. As the wolf is, so would man be, except that in 
the world of man's cooperative life and in his world of ac- 
cumulated experience there are possibilities of appreciation 
of values, and acquired ideas of value which are just as 
potent in prompting action as are the pangs of hunger. 

There are times even at the highest levels of civilized life 
when the feelings of hunger become keen and then the higher 
processes of appreciation of values may be for the time 
being submerged. We read that this was true of Esau, who 
exchanged intangible values of large worth for a mess of 
pottage. The higher processes of mind are at all stages 
of evolution in jeopardy from the competition of more 
primitive forms of mental and physical need. It is for this 
reason that primitive man and his more refined descendants 
have fortified themselves by all kinds of social institutions 
which are explicitly devised to prevent relapse into the 
animal state. Thus when the prospector finds his bed 
of useful stone, he marks it; he makes a ceremony of the 
marking ; he tells a few carefully selected companions and 
they organize a group within the tribal group. This smaller 
circle of initiated ones meet and discuss their secret. They 


make records that prevent their forgetting their secret. In 
all of these acts they transform themselves from nature-men 
into men dominated in their thinking and behavior by ideas 
and abstract values. 

The artisan and the prospector with their new interest 
in materials became aggressive experimenters. Through 
their experimenting they came in due time upon a special 
kind of stone. It was a malleable stone and it was a stone 
which melted in the fire. The way in which this discovery 
was made can of course be only a matter of surmise, but we 
can be very sure that, whatever the particular method of 
this discovery, it was made possible through the gradual 
accumulation of ideas and practices in the group. Group 
life had reached a high stage of evolution before man passed 
out of the stone age. 

Pitt-Rivers comments on the discovery of metal as 
follows : 

The fabrication of stone implements would of itself lead by 
degrees to a knowledge of the metals which are contained in 
stones. Thus, for example, I have here a specimen of a stone 
mace-head from Central America composed of a nodule of haema- 
tite partially coated with micaceous iron ore, the particles of 
which are distinctly visible on its glittering surface. The weight 
of this implement, being nearly double that of a mace-head com- 
posed of ordinary stone, would at once attract the notice of the 
savage fabricator, and lead him to investigate the uses of metal. 

But, as a general rule, races engaged exclusively in hunting, 
who rarely turn their attention to the ground except to examine 
a trail or to search for water, would have little opportunity of 
profiting by the mineral wealth of the soil over which they roamed. 
Witness the Australians, who have continued for ages in ignorance 
of the gold and other mines which are now so attractive to Euro- 
peans; or the North and South American Indians, and the Es- 
quimaux, amongst whom the art of smelting metal has never 
been found associated with those races who are in a purely hunting 


stage of existence, the wrought metals used by such races to 
point their weapons being invariably derived from civilized sources. 

From hunting wild animals, the savage, in the natural sequence 
of progress, would turn his attention to their capture and domes- 
tication, and thus he creeps gradually into the pastoral life; 
and as the bones of animals under domestication, through want 
of exercise and good living, become smoother and of finer texture, 
the experienced anatomist is thereby afforded the means of dis- 
tinguishing, amongst the vestiges of antiquity, the remains of 
domesticated animals from those derived from the chase, and of 
observing to what extent the domestication of animals was con- 
temporaneous with other changes in the social condition of the 
people. Still, however, in the pastoral state, the barbarian is not 
necessarily brought in contact with metals ; and hence we should 
expect in many cases to find the traces of domesticated animals 
associated with people who are still in the stone age. This was 
notably the case amongst the ancient inhabitants of the Swiss 
lakes, where the sheep and horse have been found at Moosseedorf , 
and other lake habitations which are proved to belong to the 
stone age, though not in such abundance as in the settlements be- 
longing to the bronze age. 

From the pastoral life, the barbarian, hampered by his flocks 
and herds, and no longer obliged to wander in search of food, 
settles down to a more stationary life, and by degrees takes to 
agriculture. Then, for the first time, he digs into the soil, and 
becomes acquainted with its mineral treasures. It has been proved 
by the discovery of quantities of carbonized grains of wheat, 
lumped together, in the Swiss lake-habitations of the stone age, 
together with the materials for preparing it for food, that a knowl- 
edge of agriculture preceded the general employment of bronze 
in that region, whilst in Britain, and in Denmark also, bronze is 
almost invariably associated with evidence of domestication and 

The metals first employed would be those that are most at- 
tractive. Copper, in Europe, from the bright colour of its ores, 
would be noticed more readily than iron, which is often scarcely 
distinguishable from the soil, and requires greater temperature 


and more skilled labour to render it available than could be 
expected of a people emerging out of the savage state. It is 
not, therefore, surprising that in Europe, copper first, and sub- 
sequently its alloy, bronze, should have been employed before 
iron as a material for weapons. But in those countries where 
iron is found upon the surface in an attractive form, and in a con- 
dition to be easily wrought, we must for the same reason suppose 
that it would be used instead of copper in the earliest ages of 
metallurgy. 1 

The discovery of metal has had a most momentous 
effect on human life and human thought. The arts became 
increasingly elaborate, demanding on the part of the worker 
more skill and the cultivation of more ideas than were 
necessary at lower levels of culture. At the same time the 
range of possible invention was indefinitely extended. 
Metals offer no such restrictions to art as do wood and 
stone, which must be worked on the lines dictated by the 
material. Metal is difficult to obtain, but once it is secured 
it is manageable far more readily than are other resistant 

The elaborateness of the processes to which primitive 
man attained in working metal is illustrated by the following 
statement copied from a lesson on " Iron and Steel " prepared 
by Professor J. Russell Smith : 

Two black men, almost naked, squat on opposite sides of a fire 
in central Africa. Each of them has a little hand bellows with 
which he forces the fire. From time to time they lay on the fire 
lumps of charcoal and lumps of iron ore. All day they work and 
sweat, blowing and feeding their little fire. At evening, a 10 or 
12 pound lump of iron lies in the glowing coals ready to be ham- 
mered on the anvil and shaped into spearhead, knife, or kettle. 

These men are smelting iron ore, which is a kind of rock with 
some iron mixed in with several other kinds of mineral. The hot 

I MYRES, J. L. (editor) op.cit., pp. 155-157. 


fire makes the iron melt and run out, so that it can be gathered up 
and used. 

No one knows how long man has smelted iron ore. Iron ore is 
to be found in almost all countries, and primitive man in many 
lands knew how to use it many, many centuries ago. Perhaps 
some primitive man's camp-fire first smelted iron by accident. 
Legend says that 1,500 years before Christ a forest fire showed the 
people of the island of Crete how to make iron. Pictures on the 
walls of Egyptian buildings which date back to 3,500 years before 
Christ show Egyptians smelting iron with the aid of a goatskin 

Each of many ancient peoples must have found out for itself 
how to make iron, for it was made by the same method in very 
ancient times in middle Africa, in China, in India, as well as in 
the countries around the Mediterranean, and in England where 
Caesar found the Britons making it very much as the explorer 
may still find it made in remote parts of Africa and Asia. 

The Romans were unable to make much improvement on this 
process of making iron. It produced all the metal with which 
Caesar armed his victorious legions. The iron which bolted the 
oak of the little ships of Columbus was made in a simple fireplace 
like a blacksmith's forge. The iron for Washington's cannon and 
muskets was made in forges or tall furnaces not unlike big stone 
chimneys. The fire was fed by the forced draft commonly pro- 
duced by a water wheel. 1 

It is evident from this description that the art of handling 
metal requires a high type of mental ingenuity and a high 
degree of patience. The metal worker, even more than 
the prospector, is laboring toward a goal which is far away. 
He must have enough imagination to look into the remoter 
possibilities of his labor and he must guide his action toward 
satisfactions which are far removed from his immediate 
expenditure of energy. He must be backed in the devel- 

1 Lessons in Community and National Life, Series C, p. 81 ; United States 
Government Printing Office, 1918. 


opment of these personal attitudes by a social desire for the 
products of his labor which will assure him of the largest 
satisfactions as rewards of his industry. 

The discovery of metal and the influence of one worker 
on another opened up gradually certain final stages in the 
evolution of the technical arts. For our purposes it will be 
enough to condense the many steps in this later evolution 
into a very brief statement. Metal is manageable enough 
and permanent enough so that with it man can try a great 
variety of experiments. The result of these experiments is 
the discovery of principles. As the prospector learned to 
think of values, so the experimenter is able to see that 
various implements are in fact embodiments of the same 
principle. The lever, for example, turns up in many dif- 
ferent forms. One works with this lever and with that and 
finally learns how to think of the principle of leverage 
which is back of all of the concrete cases. 

It required long generations of experience with one 
mechanical contrivance after another before man arrived 
at the point where he could look beyond the particular 
implement and see the principle. He had to provide him- 
self with certain favorable conditions before the processes 
of discovering principles could be consummated. First, 
he had to provide himself with leisure to think. He had 
to have a highly evolved language in order to record the 
stages of his thought. 

When once a single mechanical principle was segregated 
from its concrete manifestations, the course of human think- 
ing was for all time thereafter determined by that fact. If 
we may use a trivial example to make clear a stupendous 
happening, we may refer to a person solving a puzzle. For 
a long time the puzzle seems baffling. One combination 
after another is attempted. Patience is required for this 
succession of trials and failures. The person who is trying 


to find the solution has plenty of experience, but it is of a 
primitive type. Suddenly, by some stroke of good fortune 
or through some insight of intelligence, the mystery is solved. 
From that time on the puzzle has a wholly new appearance. 
Not only so, but puzzles in general will be attacked in a new 
way because the experimenter has discovered that there is 
a method of looking into puzzle situations. 

As it is in solving a puzzle, so it has been with man in his 
mastery of nature. Endowed with instincts, man, like 
the animals, attacked the world about him and attempted 
to wrest from it what he needed in the way of food and 
comfort. The instincts carried him successfully through 
many situations. Then he began to use his higher powers 
to reconstruct nature. Instinct began to give way to con- 
structive effort. Slowly the puzzle began to be solved. 
Finally, construction passed over into deliberate scientific 
study and man learned to think of principles. Tools thus 
served a double purpose. They helped man to secure a 
fuller and better living and they reacted on man to make 
him more reliant on ideas and less reliant on brute force. 
Man the artisan, man the thinking being is no longer 
merely a creature of instincts. There is no instinct in the 
world which will lead an individual to smelt iron or make 
a wheel. Anyone who describes machine civilization as a 
result of instinctive adjustments shuts his eyes to the most 
significant fact which we know in the universe, namely, 
the evolution of intelligent methods of thought and action. 

One final comment may be added to this outline of the 
evolution of tool-consciousness. The modern man is able, by 
the aid of language and through social cooperation, to se- 
cure by a short method all the advantages which the race has 
secured through its age-long efforts ; he is brought even in 
his early and helpless youth into the presence of the most 
elaborate mechanical devices and principles. Instead of 


leaving instinctive adjustments behind after long periods 
of gradual induction into the simple arts, modern man finds 
himself in possession at once of the ripest products of co- 
operative thinking. He need not discover iron ; it is here 
at his hand in every possible form. He need not invent 
the pulley ; it is here with a careful explanation of its uses 
and can be had for less than the asking. If instincts were 
dominant in the primitive world, they are most certainly 
not in the modern world of mechanical appliances. The 
man who lives in .modern society has to develop modes of 
thought and modes of action which are appropriate to a 
world where tools have attained an importance so superior 
to bodily organs that no one thinks of using his unaided 
strength even in satisfying the most urgent of his physical 



This chapter will be devoted to the discussion of exchange, 
money, and the more elaborate instruments of credit which 
civilization has devised as means of facilitating commercial 
cooperation. The purpose of this discussion is to reinforce 
the conclusion reached in the foregoing chapter, that life in 
the present era is a highly organized system of intelligent 

The primitive struggle on the part of animals to secure 
the things desired for subsistence and comfort consists in 
sharp trials of strength between individuals. The stronger 
individual or the more cunning takes advantage of the less 
able and as a result secures superior enjoyment of the good 
things of life. 

There are frequent occasions in civilized life when indi- 
viduals engage in ruthless competition, but the methods of 
this competition are different from those which appear in 
animal life. Human struggles are very seldom hand-to- 
hand encounters; they are struggles carried on by social 
methods and have as their stake the possession of the sym- 
bols of wealth rather than the objects desired. Whenever 
men resort to brute force in competing for that which they de- 
sire, society sets its machinery in operation to defeat them. 
Their strength sinks into a position of little importance as 
contrasted with the intelligence which directs the behavior 
of commercial and economic antagonists. 



Not only so, but society has devised certain rules of 
conduct which are intended to foster virtues that are ap- 
propriate to a system of cooperative life as distinguished 
from the cruder traits that lead to success in animal com- 
petitions and in savage combat. These rules of conduct 
favor industry and conservation of property; they are en- 
forced by the group and are ultimately accepted by all of 
its members. 

To be sure the most civilized of men enjoy from time to 
time what may be called a theoretical lapse into primitive 
unregulated conduct. One reads the romances of pirate 
adventure and bandit robberies and derives from these 
something of the pleasure which must have attached to the 
human struggles which are now for the most part super- 
seded by the well-ordered activities of trade. 

The robber stage of human existence resembles in its 
mental pattern the hunting stage. There was much the 
same kind of fierce pleasure in wresting a piece of food from 
a fellow man that there was in capturing wild prey. Just 
when and how men came to a more peaceful method of 
sharing the goods that contribute comfort to life can be, of 
course, only a matter of speculation. The appearance of an 
abundant supply of food undoubtedly reduced competi- 
tion and made it easy to pass out of the robber stage into 
one of social cooperation. The invention of tools made 
men so efficient in supplying abundance of food and at the 
same time so interdependent that barter was substituted 
for violence. 

Whatever the circumstances under which barter first 
came into the world, it was destined to replace robbery. 
Step by step barter has in turn been replaced by higher 
forms of exchange. Not only so, but in the course of this 
evolution there have been invented certain devices which 
are utterly unintelligible to beings who have not learned 


methods of institutional life. Offer an animal a coin or a 
jewel of great value as a reward and the abstract character 
of human exchange and its dependence on inventions will 
instantly be apparent. 

We may draw from one of Kipling's stories the lesson 
that civilization is wholly different from the lower stage at 
which the animals live. In the story of " The King's Ankus/ ' 
Mowgli, the wild boy, it will be remembered, found the 
glittering be jeweled thing in the ruined city where the 
monkeys had carried him. He played with it until he lost 
interest in it and threw it away. A man found it and was 
enriched by it beyond the dreams of avarice. Soon the 
finder was killed by another who desired the ankus. Sur- 
prise after surprise came to Mowgli, the child of nature, as 
he observed the struggles that men will undertake for pos- 
session of the thing. To his natural and instinctive mind 
there was nothing about the ankus to satisfy the immediate 
desires which a human being or an animal has for food or 
drink or for the ordinary comforts of life. The remote and 
highly abstract devotion to jewels was utterly unintelligible 
to him. 

Another illustration of the highly artificial character of 
money exchange can be seen in the behavior of children. 
Little children have no regard for the value of coins. They 
like a silver dollar because it is flat and hard, because it can 
be rolled and otherwise used as a plaything. They have no 
interest at all in its purchasing value. Little children have 
to go through a long series of civilizing experiences before 
they come to have anything of the feeling which the ordinary 
adult cherishes for currency. 

The formulas which were used in the chapter on tools 
may properly be repeated in the effort to explain how the 
first stages of exchange arose. The robber animal has no 
consideration for its victim because it is intent upon one 


object, namely, the piece of food which will satisfy hunger. 
Furthermore, for the animal the object which can hold 
attention must be something which will yield direct satis- 
faction. Nothing that involves long thought processes or 
abstract knowledge can appeal to the animal because it is 
unequipped with the powers necessary for these higher forms 
of experience. 

When primitive man evolved to the level where he prac- 
ticed barter, which is one step above anything of which the 
animal is capable, the range of attention was infinitely 
wider than it was at the stage of robbery. Each of the 
parties to a transaction of barter has a strong disposition, as 
does the animal, to hold his own possessions, but the bar- 
terer is able to give some attention to the commodities in 
the possession of the man with whom he is about to arrange 
an exchange. The mind of the barterer has more than one 
focus of attention. Indeed, if we think of the watchful 
observation of the person with whom the barterer is trying 
to drive the bargain, we may say that there are three centers 
of attention. 

While barter is thus seen to be far above the range of animal 
attention, it is psychologically simple in that it depends pri- 
marily on the appeal to direct sensory desires. The Indian 
trading with the sophisticated European was always worsted 
because the Indian lived and moved in a world of immediate 
sensory satisfactions. Bright beads caught his eye. He 
did not understand the value of land deeds and other like 
inventions of a higher civilization. He was no match for 
the civilized man in exchange. He was satisfied to part 
with values and accept colors, because barter is a form of 
direct perceptual exchange. 

Early barter must have exhibited the wildest fluctuations. 
The hunter who found game plentiful was willing to part 
with his possessions for slight returns. When game was 


scarce the hunter made hard terms. The strong undoubt- 
edly bullied the weak and purchased at their own rates 
whatever they desired. Barter was unsystematized and 
unregulated ; it often included a large element of robbery. 

With all its defects, barter served to establish certain new 
ideas in the world, the ideas of comparative value. The 
individual who bartered his wares began to form some 
notion of relative desirability and to realize that his goods 
had potentialities of exchange even before he began to 
barter them. Not only so, but gradually the idea of desira- 
bility became especially prominent in connection with some 
one or more objects because these objects were equally and 
universally acceptable to all persons. The objects which 
were in this way selected as readily exchangeable were the 
first examples of what we call "money." 

How various have been the objects which have served as 
money is related by Bastable. He says : 

On a review of existing savage tribes and ancient races of more 
or less civilization, we are surprised at the great variety of objects 
which have been used to supply the need of a circulating medium. 
Skins, for instance, seem to be one of the earliest forms of money. 
They have been found among the Indians of Alaska performing 
this service, while accounts of leather money seem to show that 
their use was formerly more general. As the hunting stage gives 
place to the pastoral, and animals become domesticated, the 
animal itself, instead of its skin, becomes the principal form of 
currency. There is a great mass of evidence to show that, in the 
most distant regions and at very different times, cattle formed 
a currency for pastoral and early agricultural nations. Alike 
among existing barbarous tribes, and in the survivals discovered 
among classical nations, sheep and oxen both appear as units of 
value. Thus we find that at Rome, and through the Italian 
tribes generally "oxen and sheep formed the oldest medium of 
exchange, ten sheep being reckoned equivalent to one ox. " . . . 

The Icelandic law bears witness to a similar state of things; 


while the various fines in the different Teutonic codes are estimated 
in cattle. 


On passing to the agricultural stage a greater number of objects 
are found capable of being applied to currency purposes. Among 
these are corn used even at present in Norway maize, olive 
oil, coconuts and tea. The most remarkable instance of an agri- 
cultural product being used as currency is to be found in the case 
of tobacco, which was adopted as legal tender by the English 
colonists in North America. Another class of articles used for 
money consists of ornaments, which among all uncivilized tribes 
serve this purpose. The haique-shells . . . are an instance, 
cowries in India, whales' teeth among the Fijians, red feathers 
among some South Sea Island tribes, and finally, any attractive 
kinds of stone which can be easily worked. Mineral products so 
far as they do not come under the preceding head, furnish another 
class. Thus salt was used in Abyssinia and Mexico. 1 

A study of this list of commodities which were used in 
standardizing and stabilizing trade reveals clearly what must 
have been going on in men's minds. Confronted with the 
fluctuating desires of their fellows and with the varying 
conditions in regard to supply, men found it necessary to 
discover some relatively stable and permanent center to 
which they could always refer when they arranged to make 
a trade. They needed this stable center of thought and 
desire in order to guide their thinking. As soon as they 
found a satisfactory commodity to which they could attach 
their thinking they elevated it to a position of unique im- 
portance. The commodity became something more than 
a material thing. It became a social instrument, a symbol 
of cooperation, a device for guiding later thought because it 
had been selected as satisfying a mental need for stability 
in comparisons. 

1 BASTABLE, CHARLES F. " Money," Encyclopedia Britannica (Eleventh 
Edition), XVIII, p. 697; Cambridge University Press. 


As soon as money of the type described began to appear, 
the need of further systematization of thought and human 
relations began to make itself manifest. Barter was not 
possible without some notion of quantity. At first quantity 
must have been roughly estimated by mere inspection, but 
soon the demand for a more highly refined method of meas- 
urement began to be recognized. This is not the proper 
place for a discussion of the evolution of weights and meas- 
ures; a later chapter will be devoted to that topic. It is 
in place, however, to emphasize the fact that progressive 
systematization of thought is the essential condition of 
economic evolution. Money is not a collection of objects ; 
it is a system of symbols used in guiding thought and conduct. 
The use of money stimulates minds to new levels of thought 
entirely removed from the sphere of animal instincts and 
animal combat. 

The progress of money standardization can be traced to 
show how men gradually raised themselves from the level of 
interest in perceptual enjoyment to more abstract modes of 
thought. The Indians carried on much of their trade by the 
use of wampum. Wampum is made of shells strung on a 
thong. The string of shells was used as an ornament very 
much as beads are used by modern women. Sometimes 
the shells were polished and matched in size and coloring 
as a modern string of pearls is matched. The ornamental 
value of the string of wampum was thus due in part to the 
appeal made directly by the shells to the eye, but far beyond 
this was the secondary meaning which every beholder came 
to attach to the wampum. The shells were counters, and 
back of them was the value which they represented. The 
shells meant that the rich possessor could match each shell 
with some other goods. When the purchaser handed over a 
string of wampum to the seller, it became a promissory note 
to be redeemed later by an agreed-upon number of pelts or 


quantity of food. Wampum was at once an object of dis- 
play and a counter or abstract symbol of value. 

Economists have frequently pointed out the close relation 
between ornament and money. When one thinks of orna- 
ment in psychological terms, there is no mystery about this 
close relationship. Human love for that which is permanent 
is not a mere physical desire ; it is an ideal. Gold is that with 
which kings have surrounded themselves and with which 
men have embellished their tombs. Gold comes very near 
to the human ideal of the immortal. Not only so, but it is 
also capable of infinite variety in its molding. It attracts 
the eye with color which does not tarnish with age. Tribes 
which do not possess gold have used other materials that 
approach it in qualities as their standard of exchange and at 
the same time as their means of personal decoration. Wam- 
pum and precious stones are the striking examples of the 
human choices of permanent materials other than gold to be 
used as means of expressing the ideal of permanent value. 

At the close of a chapter on ornament and money, Carlile 
writes as follows : 

At the dawn of mediaeval history, the connection between 
ornament and money is found to be so intimate as to merge into 
virtual identity. The gold armlets with which the Anglo-Saxon 
noble delighted to bedeck himself were, like the earrings that 
Abraham sent to Rebekah, made on a definite scale of weight and 
standard of purity, and apparently were also so made as to be read- 
ily divisible into portions of a definite weight. The scillingas, 
from which our word shilling is derived, were originally pieces cut 
or broken off from these armlets, and were eventually at any rate 
equated with the weight of the Roman solidus. A " ring-breaker/' 
both in the Anglo-Saxon and Norse languages, came to be used in 
the sense of "a distributor of treasures, an attribute especially 
given to princes/ 7 In "The Traveller's Song" a prince, whom 
Mr. Hodgkin identifies with Alboin, is described as being " the 


man who, of all mankind, had the lightest hand to win love, the 
most generous heart in the distribution of rings and bracelets/' l 

The psychological forces which are at work in evolving 
money have been recognized in some measure by economists. 
The following passage may be quoted from Carlile : 

Let us glance, in the first instance, at the current explanation 
of the origin of money, as put into shape by Adam Smith. It 
runs, it will be remembered, somewhat as follows. The division 
of labour having been established, the power of exchanging com- 
modities must frequently have been embarrassed by the difficulty 
which a would-be exchanger would often feel in finding any one 
who happened to possess a superfluity of the commodity that he 
wanted, and who at the same time would take what he had to 
dispose of. 

To avoid the inconveniency of such situations the prudent man 
would naturally endeavor to have by him a certain quantity of 
some one commodity or other such as he imagined few people would 
be likely to refuse in exchange for the product of their industry. . . . 
" Many different commodities it is probable were successively both 
thought of and employed for the purpose. " In the end, however, 
" irresistible reasons " led all civilized nations to give the preference 
to the metals, and eventually to the precious metals. The " irre- 
sistible reasons " were of course the high value in small compass, 
the homogeneity, fusibility, divisibility, and so on, of these metals. 

On this explanation, the criticism at once suggests itself that, 
if the prudent man could find any commodity that few would 
refuse in exchange for their products, then money was already 
virtually established. The very thing that we want to know is, 
how did first one commodity, then another, and finally gold and 
silver, attain such a degree of universal acceptability as ensured 
their being refused by none in exchange for their products? 

Professor Walker, whose discussion of the subject in his Money, 
Trade, and Industry (page 6) is, within limits, most lucid and 

1 CARLILE, WILLIAM W. Evolution of Modern Money, pp. 248-249 ; 
Macmillan and Co., 1901. 


enlightening, after defining money as that which every one receives 
without the slightest reference either to his own need for con- 
sumption or to the credit of the person who offers it, remarks, 
" When an article reaches this degree of acceptability, it becomes 
money, no matter what it is made of, and no matter why people 
want it." This conception of an article as " becoming money" 
spontaneously as soon as it has reached a certain required degree 
of " acceptability" is certainly much nearer the truth than Adam 
Smith's conception, which seems to assume that the prehistoric 
communities first decided that the establishment of money would 
be desirable, then experimented with a variety of commodities 
as money, and finally, for irresistible reasons, fixed on the precious 
metals. 1 

In such a discussion we see acceptability used as a vague 
general term to cover a whole group of psychological facts. 
Acceptability, as we have shown, is not a mere matter of 
appeal to the senses and the animal desires for food and 
comfort, or even the aesthetic tastes of men. Accepta- 
bility results only when the higher demands of systematic 
thought are satisfied by the commodity adopted as money. 
Money could not exist at all without a sufficient develop- 
ment of intelligence to make it possible for those who have 
commodities to look beyond the present fact, to think in 
terms of permanent values, to see the advantages of social 
cooperation and the desirability of regulating this coopera- 
tion so that it shall be equitable to all concerned. 

What the psychologist objects to in the statement of the 
economist is the idea that things become money because of 
their own qualities. Money is invented to support human 
thought processes. It is created in response to a demand 
which is strictly psychological. To be sure, gold is homo- 
geneous, but it requires a discriminating mind to recognize 
this. It is true that gold is divisible into small units, but 

1 CARHLE, WILLIAM W. op. cit., pp. 226-228. 


this virtue must first appeal to a mind which seeks to divide. 
To talk about money as explained by the inherent qualities 
of the precious metals is like trying to explain a work of art 
by reference to the qualities of paint and canvas. 

The economist's statement can be recast. First came 
individual foraging for food and the other good things of life. 
Then came robbery. Then came barter. But barter was 
clumsy and full of unsatisfactory hazards and so men 
gradually systematized their exchange. They recognized cer- 
tain permanent qualities in things and became discriminat- 
ing. They began to pile up property against a day of need. 
All this came very slowly, but it contributed to the evolution 
of an idea the idea of comparative value. This idea is 
an abstraction. One cannot see comparative value or taste 
it, but it is a quality resulting from the relation of objects 
to human comfort. Under the idea of value, objects are 
brought together which in the world of things do not belong 
together at all. The skins that make the wigwam, the flint 
that makes the arrowhead, the flesh that is to be used as food, 
all stand in the same relation to human life in that they make 
it pleasanter ; and because of this common relation to man, 
all of these objects are classified as valuable. Further- 
more, there soon arises in the mind which has classified all 
these things under the general term " value " a need for 
some kind of a device by which the place of each object 
under the general idea can be determined and marked. 
The products of the hunt have a value, but their value is 
less permanent than that attaching to the product of the 
prospector's endeavor. The arrowhead is of high value 
because it can serve again and again in the quest for food. 
Man thus gradually trained himself to look beyond mere 
obvious qualities and to see a quality which, as indicated 
before, is abstract. 

Once the idea of comparative value is apprehended by men, 


they begin to act under its guidance. They seek some 
method of giving it expression. Economists have seen 
clearly that it is permanent objects which are chosen for 
money, but they have been slow to recognize that perma- 
nency is discovered by the mind rather than supplied by 
nature. Money is the instrument by which men help them- 
selves to understand and express their subjective needs. 
Substances having permanency are selected because they 
correspond to the idea of value. The reason why we esteem 
the precious stones and the precious metals so highly is not 
that they satisfy our hunger directly or give us bodily com- 
fort, but that experience has shown them to be unaffected by 
time and erosion. There is a feeling of confidence which 
attaches to a piece of gold that cannot be aroused by any 
fragile object, however useful it may be at the moment. 
Gold did not select itself as the medium of exchange ; it was 
selected by human beings who were striving to secure a 
tangible expression of the idea of permanent value. 

What has been said regarding the permanence of money 
can be said also of those other qualities of the precious metals 
so often emphasized by the economists, namely, divisibility 
and fusibility. The recognition of the comparative values is 
immediately followed by a desire that such values when 
exchanged shall be justly equated with each other. There 
is in objects as they exist in the outer world no reaching out 
in the direction of comparison with other objects. One ani- 
mal furnishes much food and another furnishes little, and 
each is unaware of its great or little value to man. Man, 
on the other hand, recognizes that the small animal has 
small value in relation to his own needs and the large animal 
a greater value. In order to adjust matters he must invent 
a device for expressing the difference. This device he finds 
in some third or neutral substance to which he refers both 
the small and the large animal. This neutral substance must 


be readily divisible so that it can be matched to the com- 
modities which are to be compared. 

As a matter of fact, man has encountered in the metals 
a great deal of resistance to this demand for divisibility. 
He has therefore superimposed on the metals another 
system, the system of theoretical division or calculation. 
If he cannot actually divide a bar of gold, he will divide it 
in his thought and will say that the bar is made up of so 
and so many grains. This theoretical division of the bar 
will in many cases serve the purposes of exchange and make 
unnecessary any actual division. 

It may be well to digress for a moment and comment on 
the ingenuity which man had to exercise in order to make 
possible the theoretical division of his gold into small units. 
The use of the word "grain" shows the device to which man 
resorted. Of all the small objects of nature, the grains of the 
field were most nearly uniform. Just as permanency had 
been found in the metals, so uniformity was found in grains. 
The word "carat/' which is used in modern times to express 
the fineness of gold, is derived, like the unit of weight called 
a grain, from the name of a seed. In Abyssinia there is a 
coral-tree which has small uniform seeds. This tree 
furnished the weights with which small quantities of gold 
were originally compared. Long ages ago this natural aid 
to subdivision was given up in favor of an authorized and 
socially sanctioned unit of comparison, but the name of 
the original seed-unit still remains to bear testimony to 
the fact that the active human mind used the material 
things about it for its own purposes. Seeds were not merely 
seeds to the discerning mind ; they were counters of ex- 
ceptional value because of their uniformity. The idea of 
uniformity was needed in order to control human relations. 
It would be a wholly inverted statement to say that nature 
imposed uniformity on the human mind through seeds and 


grains. The human mind picked out seeds and grains 
because they correspond to its own ideas. 

If the argument up to this point has failed to convince 
any reader of the strictly psychological character of money, 
the study of coinage will certainly show him that it is mental 
rather than material forces which have operated to produce 
the economic system of civilization. 

Let us go back in imagination to the conditions of trade 
when there were no coins. Semicivilized man was somewhat 
skilled in the methods of barter and of partially standardized 
money exchange. He had discovered gold and silver and 
was using them as the standards of value. He had a system 
of weights by which he could actually or theoretically divide 
his bars of metal. We are thinking of such a period as that 
recorded in early Hebrew history when gold was measured 
by the talent, which is a unit of weight. 

In such a stage of dawning civilization as this, the un- 
certainties of trade were, of course, very great. Suppose 
that the gold bar were diluted with copper ; the purchaser 
who received full weight would not receive full value. There 
came, therefore, to be a distinction between gold and fine 
gold. Also there came in human relations the first remote 
beginnings of that which in modern life has come to play so 
large a part in exchange confidence, built on reliability. 
The merchant whose gold bars were always pure, the country 
from which gold of a pure grade came, were held in superior 
esteem. Was not the gold of Ophir better than the gold 
from unknown lands? The value of a designation thus 
began to appear as supplementing and guaranteeing the 
value of the metal itself. 

It should be noted that society in this early day was not 
compact enough to guarantee protection to the trader. 
Each merchant was obliged to be his own guarantor. The 
contrast with present-day society is mentioned at this point 


in order to keep as vividly as possible in the reader's 
mind the idea that social institutions evolve only after ideas 
emerge through accumulated experience. That gold from 
Ophir is pure must first become a matter of common knowl- 
edge ; then human intelligence will recognize the importance 
of letting it be known that the gold in hand came from that 
particular and highly creditable source. It was not until 
long ages after the ideas of quality and reliability had been 
developed that human experience reached the stage where it 
could suggest the modern device of giving it an appropriate 
stamp. It was a still later step when methods of artificial 
purification made it possible to bring all gold to a designated 

Let us go back to the days when a name began to have 
significance. It soon came to pass that the authority of the 
ruler was appealed to in exchange and the metal standards 
of exchange were looked upon as most satisfactory when they 
bore the name of the ruler. His name on a bit of metal 
meant that the force of organized society was back of the 
guarantee. At first the stamp was crude; the coin was 
irregular in shape ; there was no milled edge to protect the 
coin against reduction in value by abrasion; there was no 
clear designation of the value merely a guarantee that the 
ruler recognized the metal as a part of the social machinery 
which his people must use in securing the goods necessary 
for life and comfort. 

This is not the place to attempt to trace in any detail the 
history of coinage, but reference to one historical episode will 
throw a flood of light on the psychology of coins. During 
the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI in England, it was 
believed by the sovereigns and their advisers that it was 
the sovereign's authority which determined the value of 
currency. This theory of wealth as related to government 
was accepted as the basis for the further contention that the 


sovereign had the right to take advantage of his authority as 
though it were equivalent in importance to the purity and 
weight of metal. Such a view led finally to the issuance of 
coins which were inferior in quality and weight. It was 
very soon found, however, that the underweight coins were 
not received freely by tradespeople, and, of course, they 
could not be used for trade in countries beyond the range of 
the influence of the ruler who issued them. The monarchs 
tried by edicts to force the depreciated currency on their 
subjects. They tried to set the price of corn and other 
necessities of life at a point which would maintain the 
prestige of their coins; but the royal edicts did not avail. 
It was thus discovered that the sovereign's guarantee must 
be a genuine guarantee. It is only on the basis of a 
guarantee corresponding to the facts that confidence can be 

In the light of this illustration we may seek the answer to 
two questions. The first may be stated in these terms : 
How could a king and his advisers make so radical a mistake 
in their definition of the sovereign's relations to coinage? 
The second question is : How far does the ordinary man 
understand the value of a coin ? 

Both questions are answered by the statement that a coin 
is one of the most abstract objects in the world. It carries 
in its official sanction and in the actual metal which it con- 
tains an epitome of racial evolution. Its value can there- 
fore be readily misinterpreted by anyone who becomes con- 
fused in the system of ideas which he attaches to the coin. 
The king's advisers selected from the complex of ideas which 
attach to the coin the one notion of sovereign authority and 
overemphasized this. They did not carry popular thinking 
with them and consequently the scheme which they framed 
in their councils failed. The common man was more affected 
by such ideas as came to him when he found that foreign 


exchange did not recognize the authority of his sovereign 
than he was by any judgments of the king's advisers. Once 
the common man began to have his attention called to 
grounds of suspicion regarding the completeness of his 
sovereign's powers, the coins became distasteful and un- 
acceptable. The common man's system of thinking is 
very easily disturbed by the slightest suspicion as to the 
reliability of the authority which put its stamp on the coin. 

We see from the facts cited not only that a coin is depend- 
ent on ideas for its acceptability, but also that the system of 
ideas in question is peculiarly social in character, involving a 
recognition of such matters as governmental and sovereign 
authority. In short, the psychology of the coin is something 
other than the psychology of individual perception or indi- 
vidual thinking. The possessor of a coin is at the end of a 
long series of evolutionary stages and although his present 
apprehension of the meaning of the coin does not by any 
means depend on an explicit knowledge of all the history 
that has gone into the making of the coin, it epitomizes this 
history in a feeling of dependence on the group. The coin 
is subject to laws of social relationship which the individual 
from his limited contact with it cannot fully comprehend, 
but emphatically feels. The coin was built up by human 
cooperation and depends for its continued use on mutual 
human confidences. The individual recognizes himself as a 
part of a scheme of social interdependence. 

Perhaps the most striking way of putting the matter is 
to come back to the fact mentioned earlier, that children 
have the greatest difficulty in understanding coins. The 
child finds in the world into which he comes this hard round 
thing which seems to command a kind of respect that is 
altogether unique. On a certain eventful day he finds that 
if he takes the coin in his hand and goes to the store he 
can acquire as his own certain very desirable objects, but 


he will have to give up the coin. Just why he gets so 
many things and no more is not clear, but the possibility of 
purchasing things with coins is a fact of experience and an 
important fact. 

It is not necessary to do more than suggest such a line of 
thought. Each member of modern civilized society has had 
his introduction to coins and understands something of the 
character of a coin and the endless network of relationships 
into which the coin brings him. 

These discussions show that the coin is not explicable 
by any of the devices known to individual psychology ; nor 
is its explanation the duty of the student of physics or chem- 
istry or zoology. A coin is not a matter of sensations or 
percepts or instincts ; nor is it a mere piece of metal. Coins 
are symbols of a series of social interrelationships and as 
such can be fully understood only after a study of the way in 
which men live together and control their cooperative activ- 
ities through symbols. Coins are symbols of a system of 
ideas and of a system of mutual confidences and suspicions. 

There will be occasions in later chapters when the 
discussion will return to social symbols. Coins are by no 
means the only symbolic devices which have been created by 
social cooperation. Our present task, however, is to place 
before the reader one clear concrete example of a human 
invention based on an abstract idea. We turn, therefore, 
to certain final stages in the evolution of money exchange. 

After metal coinage comes the use of paper, first as a sub- 
stitute for coins and afterwards in various other forms, some 
of which have proved to be legitimate and useful, others of 
which have proved to be ill conceived and disastrous. 

Obviously, paper money could not be used until a long 
series of developments had taken place in society, making 
the number system and the art of reading common posses- 
sions of the majority of the members of the community. In 


a large sense of the word, the use of paper money is as much 
a result of learning to read and write as it is an outcome of 
economic development. If we set aside, however, for the 
moment considerations of this type which we shall take up 
later in connection with the study of language, it may be 
pointed out that the use of paper money calls for a type of 
mental process which is higher and more abstract than that 
which is required for the use of metal coins. When a person 
sees paper money he must have confidence that there is a 
sufficient organization of society back of this substitute for 
tangible metal values to assure him that he can secure 
for his paper a substance much nearer his ideal of per- 
manence. As soon as confidence in society is at all shaken, 
the value of paper money, which is a doubly abstract social 
medium, is entirely lost. Confidence in paper money is, 
therefore, less stable than confidence in metal coinage ; and 
we have seen that confidence in metal coinage is dependent 
on the integrity of the coins. 

An interesting psychological problem of the type sug- 
gested in an earlier paragraph arises at this point; it is 
the problem of determining what form confidence in the 
social organization back of paper money takes on in the 
individual's mental life. Every time one looks at a dollar 
bill one has confidence in society, and yet this confidence 
does not come to the surface in the form of a full conscious 
picture of the social organization which is back of the cur- 
rency system of the country. To be sure, if a person pauses 
to define clearly to himself the attitude which he assumes 
toward the paper money, he may be able to call up more or 
less vividly a picture of the central government and of its 
power to enforce his rights in connection with paper money. 
But this elaborate mental process which may on occasion be 
brought out and inspected has an adequate substitute in 
ordinary life. This adequate substitute we may describe 


by saying that it is an attitude of confidence in the familiar 
paper itself. This attitude of confidence in turn is the out- 
growth of repeated experiences in which we have seen the 
paper accepted without hesitation by tradespeople. We 
come to have, as a result of what we have observed, com- 
plete faith that the paper money will pass. We handle it, 
therefore, with assurance and offer it at the store without 
ever stopping to go back to the remoter grounds of our faith. 
Assurance is in this case a feeling directly connected with a 
certain series of behaviors ; it is the mental accompaniment 
of a habit of action. 

Passing the feeling of confidence, we may go on to con- 
sider another of the psychological processes which arise in 
the individual's mind when he deals with paper money. 
The paper money is substituted 'for coins because it is con- 
venient ; it is easily handled ; it can be made in uniform size, 
whatever the denomination. In all these respects society 
has been working out a practical problem of ease of manipu- 
lation. Society has deliberately invented a device which is 
economical of its own energy. 

In order to satisfy its desire for convenience, society has 
found it necessary to expend a great deal of energy in develop- 
ing and safeguarding the system itself. In other words, in 
order to save energy, society has expended time and energy 
in developing an artificial system. Some of the steps which 
are required in the elaboration of this artificial system become 
apparent when it is considered that society has to make a 
special form of paper on which to stamp its paper money. 
Society has to produce for the printing of its money elaborate 
plates which it will be difficult for unauthorized people to 
duplicate. Society has to employ a group of men whose 
business it is to protect the community against forgeries. 
Society has to develop agencies for the distribution and for 
the ultimate collection and re-issue of paper money. 


History shows that paper money, like coins, is subject 
to the laws of its own origin. Society cannot ignore the 
relations which give paper money its acceptability without 
suffering evil consequences. This generation has witnessed 
the collapse of European paper money. The experience of 
modern Europe is very like that which, on a much smaller 
scale, came to the United States after issuing so-called fiat 
money during the Civil War. In the early years of the 
eighteenth century we find a striking example in France 
which shows the impossibility of supporting national finance 
on mere paper money. France allowed herself, under the 
leadership of the Scotch financier, John Law, to imagine 
that she could develop to her own great financial advantage 
the unexplored territory of Louisiana. On the basis of 
the most extravagant hopes, a feverish period of economic 
activity was ushered in. Paris bought shares in the company 
which Law formed and the national bank issued nearly three 
billion livres of paper money. Shortly, public confidence 
began to waver and a run on the bank led to a complete 
collapse of the whole scheme. The government found it 
necessary to cancel most of the paper which was in circu- 

All these examples show that paper money is a social 
institution which must be safeguarded and must be supported 
by real values or it will not contribute to exchange. What 
happens when confidence in paper disappears can be de- 
scribed by saying that men assume toward the paper an 
attitude of dissatisfaction and this is aroused every time it 
is put into their hands. Their cooperation is interrupted 
rather than promoted by offering them paper money. The 
social scheme which the paper is intended to promote thus 
fails to establish itself. 

Sometimes confidence breaks down on wholly inadequate 
grounds. An unjustified run on a bank is a blind mob act. 


Because one man loses confidence, a whole group follows his 
example. There is a high emotional tension on such occa- 
sions and the excitement sweeps away the earlier attitude of 
trust. Introspectively, the lack of confidence which de- 
velops in such a case is not a clear-cut matter of ideation 
and yet the effect of the falling away of confidence is such as 
to bring men to the point where they begin to assert vigor- 
ously individual demands for recognition and for protection 
against what they feel to be an unsafe social power. 

Conversely, if under conditions of doubt everyone who is 
doubtful succeeds in getting coin for the paper money and in 
turn gets commodities for his coin, confidence will be re- 
stored. If confidence is thus supported by various trials, it 
will come to be so thoroughly reestablished that the num- 
ber of questions raised about the system will be fewer and 
fewer and the grounds of skepticism will have to be very 
much stronger before anyone will again raise any question. 

What has been said with regard to paper money could be 
repeated with regard to the more elaborate instruments of 
credit and exchange. When one gives a bill of exchange or a 
note that looks into the future and is a substitute for all forms 
of currency, one is exhibiting a type of imagination which 
is incomparably broader in scope than anything which is 
required to establish confidence in a system of paper money 
or coinage. Here convenience is still further emphasized. 
Not only is a note of credit a simple way of expressing 
elaborate transactions, but it is also convenient because it 
makes possible long periods of readjustment. 

The psychology of credit is worthy of a great deal of study 
and comment in order to warn against certain very common 
fallacies. We find municipalities very ready to make pub- 
lic improvements on a credit basis. The selling of public 
bonds for the erection of public buildings in this generation 
undoubtedly impose serious problems on the next genera- 


tion. Most of the recklessness exhibited in the use of credit 
is due to a lack of sufficiently broad imagination to see the 
consequences of indulging in this particular type of expan- 
sion. The history of business concerns is full of examples 
of lack of clear vision of the future and lack of compre- 
hension of the difficulties which lie in the path of the con- 
summation of arrangements which have been projected in 
the form of credit loans. In spite of hazards such as these, 
society finds this form of business adjustment so necessary 
for the large transactions now common that the system has 
been developed on a huge scale and is one of the most charac- 
teristic features of our modern industrial organization. 

Up to this point, this chapter has been concerned chiefly 
with the processes by which the modern commercial system 
has been produced. There is a wholly different side of the 
matter which was referred to briefly in an earlier paragraph 
and is part of the general psychology of civilization. Money 
when once it has been brought into being reacts upon human 
life and very powerfully influences behavior and thought. 

A striking individual example of the influence of money 
as an agency in determining conduct can be seen if one 
thinks of the life and occupation of a banker. During his 
working hours the banker devotes himself entirely to record- 
ing and distributing credits and handling the tangible sym- 
bols of credit. For this service, society is willing to pay, and 
it thinks of the banker's calling as thoroughly commendable 
and as no less necessary to the life of the social group than 
are the callings of those who produce food and shelter. The 
banker is one of a number of persons whom the monetary 
system of society has taken away from what may be called 
direct methods of earning a living and has assigned to a 
purely abstract occupation. 

Besides specializing individuals in their occupations, 
money affects the lives of every member of civilized society. 


We think in terms of this standard of comparison. We 
estimate success and failure in quantitative terms by refer- 
ring a man's achievements to this system of measurement. 
When we find that we cannot secure enough money to satisfy 
our expectations, we suffer depression. In short, we, who 
live under a system of civilized society, think more often 
about money than we do about food and the articles which 
contribute directly to comfort. We live in a world where 
ideas and symbols of ideas are more important centers of 
attention than are objects. 

It is very proper to say, in the light of these statements, 
that man has created for himself a new environment. He 
has subjected himself to new and powerful influences which 
were first the creatures of his own efforts but have now 
become the guides of his behavior. Especially is it true of 
the individual that he is dominated by the social system. 
The individual is so inferior in his power to the social institu- 
tion that he usually thinks of money and credit as something 
wholly impersonal and even unpsychological in character. 

It is the purpose of this book to correct the popular view 
about social institutions and to point out that the environ- 
ment which man has made for himself in civilization is a 
psychological product. It is also the purpose of these 
chapters to show that the psychological products of social 
cooperation make men into superior beings by their reflex 
effect upon thought and conduct. The adaptations of civiliza- 
tion are not instinctive reactions but higher forms of conduct 
which transcend animal behavior to such an extent that the 
use of biological terms in the description of human evolution 
is likely to mislead rather than clarify thinking regarding 
the methods of this evolution. It is only through an under- 
standing of the way in which human ideas have been re- 
corded in institutions that one can arrive at a true con- 
ception of the method and character jof human life. 



Before going further with the study of particular illus- 
trations of the way in which men have used their intelligence 
to reconstruct the environment, it will be well to consider 
the psychological effects produced in the individual by social 
institutions. A member of civilized society ordinarily finds 
himself so much in accord with the institutions which sur- 
round him that he does not see that there is any need of an 
explanation of the agreement between his modes of behavior 
and the demands of the social group of which he is a part. 
Thus, in terms of the discussion of the last chapter, the 
ordinary man sees nothing to explain in his desire for money. 
To him this is quite as insistent a personal trait as the desire 
for food and comfort. In his present consciousness the 
ambition for wealth seems natural and immediate. To the 
student of human nature, who notes the gradual evolution 
of the economic system and observes that animals and even 
primitive man are destitute of the idea of standardized com- 
merce, it is evident that the present attitude of a civilized 
human being toward money demands an explanation. 

The same conclusion is arrived at if one studies the 
development of the child. The infant begins life wholly in- 
nocent of any disposition to carry on financial transactions. 
It is not until much experience has been accumulated under 
the careful guidance of his elders that the developing in- 
dividual arrives at the point where he assumes the common 
attitude toward money. 



Such considerations as the foregoing ought to convince 
anyone that he cannot rely upon introspection for an explana- 
tion of his traits. What seems natural and spontaneous in 
mature consciousness may be the product of influences which 
are not at all native to the individual. We must be pre- 
pared here, as in the natural sciences, to set aside observed 
facts and accept explanations which seem at first to contra- 
dict the testimony of our senses. To the observer the 
earth looks flat ; it required long generations of experience 
to set aside this observation in favor of the truth. In like 
fashion, introspection seems to prove that language and 
money and tools are natural outgrowths of individual en- 
dowments. It is the duty of science to go beyond intro- 
spection and to set up a system of explanations which will 
make clear the true nature of institutional control over 
men's minds and lives. 

By way of further support of the general contention that 
many habits are not the products of traits born in the indi- 
vidual, let us consider one of the ordinary customs of social 
life, that of conventional salutation. The roots of our 
present custom are to be found in animal behavior. The 
dog which encounters a friend of its own race or of the 
human kind gives expression in obvious and well-known 
ways to the satisfaction which it experiences. In like fashion 
an enemy is greeted with unmistakable signs of resentment. 
Animal salutations of the kind here under consideration may 
be described as the spontaneous natural responses of an 
individual to whatever he encounters. The explanation of 
these natural responses is to be found in a study of the 
animal and its organism. The dog wags its tail or growls be- 
cause its nervous system is such that various types of 
stimulation issue naturally in the one or the other of these 
forms of reaction. 

When we come to human life, we find at the outset the 


same types of natural reaction which were exhibited by 
the animal. The savage wandering through the forest 
hears someone approaching; instantly his excited nervous 
system responds with the reaction of defensive preparation. 
If the experience which comes to the excited observer when he 
secures a complete view of the approaching figure is such as 
to intensify the defensive reaction, the savage may attack 
his enemy, or he may run away. We are still dealing with 
forms of behavior which are natural. If, on the other hand, 
it turns out that a friend rather than an enemy approaches, 
the initial attitude of caution will give way to a relaxation 
of the defensive tension and to a more or less vigorous 
expression of the gratification which is felt in finding an 
acceptable companion. 

The natural form of this second attitude, or attitude of 
friendly salutation, is by no means as clearly dictated by the 
individual's nature as is the attitude of defense. How 
does one express satisfaction? Let us return for a moment 
to our example of the dog. The dog, pleased to find someone 
whom it likes, may jump on its friend and bark vociferously, 
or it may crouch down on the ground, showing an utter 
collapse of the strained attitude of attack which was ex- 
hibited during the preceding period of preparation for 
defense. Friendliness is thus a kind of general and un- 
defined excitement. Not only so, but it may be at times 
wholly inconvenient to the recipient. One does not need to 
go to animal life for illustrations of this fact. 

Because of the undefined character of the attitude of 
friendliness, the social group begins to impose its conveniences 
and preferences on all of its members. At first the con- 
venience of the most powerful member of the group was the 
determining factor. Obeisance is the form of salutation 
demanded in primitive tribes by the dominant members. 
Obeisance on the part of the less powerful members of the 


group has a variety of justifications. It shows that the bow- 
ing or prostrate figure is not intending to make an unfriendly 
attack. It opens a safe path for the strong. At the same 
time it cultivates in the saluting individual a fixed attitude 
of nonresistance and thus makes for a permanent recognition 
of the superior rank of the individual saluted. 

Obeisance is natural in its origins but not in its ultimate 
forms. It passes very early into a social requirement. 
Let an inferior presume to express his delight at seeing his 
master in a way which is overeffusive, and the group will 
exercise its power to put the offender back in his place or to 
eliminate him summarily from further possibility of breach 
of group convention. On the other hand, let an inferior 
refuse to accord to a superior the kind of salutation which 
has become common, and there results a new kind of enmity, 
the enmity which comes from disappointed expectation. 

The fact which is described by the term " expectation" is at 
once a product of group life and a dominant fact within the 
individual. Once an expectation has been created it becomes 
a guide to conduct. The breach of an expectation gives just 
as acute distress as a physical pain. In this sense expecta- 
tion is a new form of reality capable of being described and 
demanding respect on the part of all members of the group. 

Expectations of various types appear in human conscious- 
ness as a result of experiences. William James, in an article 
written after he had experienced an earthquake, describes 
vividly the terror which comes into the human mind when 
the solid earth, the earth which has always been the most 
substantial and immovable fact in one's experience, begins 
to break down all expectations and quake under one's feet. 
The resulting fear is not mere anxiety lest harm shall come 
to one; it is a fundamental terror which comes from a 
disturbance of one of the most completely established 
expectations in life. 


Expectation may be described as the conscious counter- 
part of a habit. Putting the matter in terms of the neural 
conditions of mental life, we may say that when the nervous 
system of a human being has acted several times in a certain 
way the tendency to repeat the same kind of action becomes 
established. The established tendency may be due to a 
purely individual act or to a response which was set up 
through social cooperation. The final result will not show 
whether the cause of the expectation was the one or the other. 

It is to be noted that there is no requirement in the estab- 
lishment of a social expectation that the persons who partici- 
pate in creating it be aware of what they are doing. They 
do not start out with the idea that the weak ought to be 
taught to bow down to the strong. They merely go forward 
along the lines dictated by their individual natures and group 
convenience. As soon as they have arrived at a settled 
mode of behavior, they have evolved a new fact, an expecta- 
tion. The strong expect to receive obeisance and the weak 
expect to give it. A form of psychological compulsion is thus 
set up. If for any reason a single individual in the group 
exhibits a lapse of behavior and does not meet the expecta- 
tion of those about him, the group will be so insistent that 
on the next occasion the recalcitrant or neglectful individual 
will be stimulated not only by the expectation which arises 
in his own mind but by a very pointed recollection of the 
punishment which his fellows inflicted when he did not 
conform to the general expectation. 

The psychology of civilization not only has to interest 
itself in such initial stages of social convention as have been 
sketched but also has to concern itself with the later 
evolution of conventions. Thus the customs of salutation 
have been differentiated in the course of human evolution. 
There is one type of salutation which is appropriate for 
members of the same family, another for members of the 


same social class, another for those whom one knows only 
casually, another for highly ceremonial occasions. This 
differentiation of salutations results ultimately in a very 
complex code of expectations. The code differs with nation- 
alities. The newcomer, especially if he wishes to conciliate 
the group to which he comes, must be careful to adopt and 
follow the code which obtains among those to whom he is to 
be introduced. A modern diplomat, for example, who goes 
from the United States to some country where modes of 
salutation are different from those which he has learned in 
our somewhat informal social order, has to be carefully 
instructed lest he should shock the expectations of the nation 
which he seeks to influence. 

The code of salutation ultimately becomes complicated with 
social conventions which on the surface are very far removed 
from personal greetings. Note the different ways in which 
we greet, even in a highly democratic society like that of the 
United States, persons of different appearances. One speaks 
to a man dressed in working clothes with a degree of freedom 
and informality which would not be regarded as permissible 
in the presence of a man dressed for an afternoon reception. 
One speaks to a child when one would not venture to speak 
to the parents. The position of woman is very different 
from that of man in the matter of priority in salutation and 
all that it implies. In each of these cases we see that salu- 
tation is not a separate convention ; it is part of the general 
social scheme. 

The illustration has perhaps been carried far enough to 
make the point. Social groups produce by their interaction 
modifications of individual behavior. These we call conven- 
tions. The convention is recorded in the individual as an 
expectation and as a habit of personal conduct. It should not 
be overlooked that expectation while it is related to behavior 
is not synonymous with individual habit. The superior 


expects a certain type of salutation from the inferior, but the 
superior does not himself cultivate as a personal habit the 
mode of salutation which he expects. Habit and expectation 
issue in highly elaborated systems of behavior and in complex 
codes of conduct to which the group not only gives its sanc- 
tion, but on which it is prepared to insist with adequate 
power to enforce its demands. 

The example which has been discussed up to this point 
may be reenforced by another which will more fully illus- 
trate the extent to which the social group is prepared to 
enforce its expectations. At the present stage of social 
development, a citizen of the United States must pass on 
the right anyone whom he meets on the highway. This is 
written in the ordinances of cities and in the laws of states 
and is upheld by the courts. An offender against this law 
will be made to suffer material and personal penalties and 
will have heaped on him violent reproof. Of course it is 
evident at once that there is nothing natural about turning 
to the right. In some parts of the world, society defends 
with equal vigor the rule that one shall pass on the left. 
Also it is evident that the present practice is the outgrowth 
of a long evolution and not one which arose spontaneously 
in the minds of all men and commanded at once their 
approval and their willingness to bring to its defense the 
power of the group. The enactment of ordinances and laws 
with regard to passing must be thought of as a very late act 
of the group, following after a long period the establishment 
of the habit which is formally sanctioned by the legal en- 

Here, as in the case of salutations, convention grew out of 
social contacts. Two men who met on a narrow path such 
as a mountain trail had to devise some way of sharing the 
road. The man of superior rank, which at first meant the 
man of superior strength, pushed the weaker man aside. 


When two men of equal rank met, they sometimes decided 
who should have the path by trial of strength. In either 
case, the tendency was ultimately developed for the weak 
to defer to the strong. The psychology of the situation is 
obvious. Indeed, all that we describe by such terms as 
" prestige " and "rank" is in the making when men meet on 
a narrow path, not because the path in itself conveys the idea 
of prestige but because the social situation creates a certain 
type of expectation and a consequent effort to meet this 

As roads multiplied and social situations of the kind under 
discussion became increasingly frequent, the necessity of 
arriving at a form of expectation that could be more readily 
and safely acted upon led to the device of passing regularly 
in a fixed way. The growth of democratic ideas operated 
also to equalize the demands on all who use the road. The 
tendency to defer to rank has not entirely given way even 
under modern conditions ; the city street is closed to ordinary 
traffic to make way for a procession or for some highly 
honored individual. In the main, however, social conven- 
ience has reached the point where it dictates that an equal 
and clearly defined share of the road shall be given to each 

If one notes one's own reactions in such a situation as that 
under discussion, one finds that the social drill results in a 
tendency to turn to the right even when no immediate social 
necessity is present. If a driver of an automobile finds that 
he must turn out of the road to avoid some physical obstacle, 
he will turn to the right by preference, because his training 
has fixed in him that one of the two equally easy directions 
of action. The tendency to carry out this acquired habit is 
so strong that if by any chance one is prevented from doing 
what one has been trained to do, one is often aroused to 
anger and gives vent to vigorous demands that convention 


be respected. An individual drilled to obey a convention 
thus becomes one of the strongest possible agencies for the 
enforcement of the convention. Society enforces its de- 
cisions by first compelling the individual to conform and 
afterwards supporting the individual in demanding that 
others also shall conform. 

Besides being recorded in individual habits, social con- 
ventions are in some cases made matters of explicit formula- 
tion. Such is the case where laws grow out of conventions. 
We shall pass over for the present the fact that society has 
found it necessary to set up lawmaking bodies as special 
agencies for the formulation of its pronouncements. It is 
enough for our present purpose to point out that a law is an 
explicit demand that individual habits shall be developed in 
compliance with the expectations of the members of the 
group. All goes well when the law and the habits of indi- 
viduals can be made to move in the same direction. Even 
where disagreements between individual habits and law are 
sporadic, society gets on fairly well. Sometimes it requires 
time to translate law into individual modes of behavior. 
This is especially true when an immature individual is sud- 
denly injected into a highly organized social group. There 
then arises a necessity with which we are all familiar, the 
necessity of an initiation of the individual into the practices 
of society. 

The word "expectation," which our examples have empha- 
sized, designates a trait in the individual which is not instinc- 
tive or natural but derived as a result of contact with social 
institutions. Take, for example, the young member of a 
semicivilized tribe who observes his elders making a weapon 
or using the weapon in the capture of food. The observa- 
tion does not leave the youthful mind unmodified. Still 
more is it true that the consciousness of the learner is changed 
if a tool comes into his hands. However clumsy he may have 


been the first time he used the tool, he will never forget the 
experience which filled his vision and gave him a new sense 
of power. The use of a tool is a transforming experience ; 
it creates a desire to use the tool again. It makes the user 
into a being with a new kind of expectation. 

Every social institution becomes in this way not merely 
the embodiment of an idea or tendency which brought it 
into being, but a force influencing the consciousness and 
behavior of all who come into contact with it. 

The individual must have the capacity for developing 
expectations and modifications of his own conduct, but the 
particular modes of behavior which he takes on are not 
determined by his natural tendencies ; they are determined 
by the demands and example of society. 

Perhaps this doctrine can be more impressively expounded 
by referring to the neural facts which are involved. It is a 
well-known fact that the nervous systems of the lower ani- 
mals are from the beginning of individual life largely mapped 
out in paths and combinations of paths which express the 
adaptations of the ancestors of the individual. There is 
very little of the tissue of an animal's nervous system which 
is left to be mapped out in the course of individual experience. 

In contrast with the animals, man possesses a vast area 
in the cerebrum which is not determined by inheritance. 
The cerebrum has evolved in the course of animal history 
as a center for new adaptations. It may be called the organ 
of individual variation, the organ of acquired responses. 

Given an organism such as the human being is, with a 
major part of its reacting mechanism undetermined by 
inheritance the importance of those influences which 
determine education at once becomes obvious. It is the 
compelling demands of social life which are largely respon- 
sible for human education. The instruments which society 
employs in expressing and enforcing these demands are 


institutions. Institutions become through long ages of 
evolution so influential in controlling the conduct of groups 
and individuals that they have been termed social inherit- 
ances. They are traceable to the experiences and efforts of 
past generations, but the way in which they influence in- 
dividual life is wholly different from the way in which 
animal adaptations have been transmitted through struc- 
tural inheritance. 

The psychology of social institutions thus arrives at a 
formula of evolution which is wholly different from that 
which biology supplies in its explanation of animal instincts. 
An instinct is a mode of behavior which is transmitted 
through structural inheritance. For example, all of the 
higher animals are supplied with muscles which are active 
in the swallowing of food. The muscles of the swallowing 
mechanism are inherited. In like fashion the nerve fibers 
and nerve centers necessary to set these muscles in action 
are inherited. Swallowing is an instinct. 

If one contrasts with the description given of this instinct 
the account which was given of the slow and elaborate 
evolution of tools and the monetary system, one realizes 
instantly that human commerce and the technical arts are 
not instincts. They are institutions achieved by coopera- 
tive effort and influential in determining the thinking and 
conduct of every child who is brought into contact with 
them, but the manner of their control is wholly different 
from that which is provided in inherited instincts. 

The formula of evolution which is supplied by the psy- 
chology of social institutions clears up much of the ambiguity 
which has dominated social psychology up to this time. 
Writers on social psychology who have not introduced into 
their systems of thought the link which social institutions 
supply have often felt somewhat vaguely the necessity of 
something other than that which biology or purely individual 


psychology can supply. For example, Professor Ross, 1 
one of the pioneers in the field of social psychology, used 
the concept of " suggestion " to explain the special mode of 
human evolution which results from social cooperation. 
"Suggestion" is a term used by hypnotists to describe the 
control which they exercise over their subjects who are in 
an abnormal trance. Professor Ross holds that we, as social 
beings, accept suggestions regarding modes of dress, that 
we accept suggestions when we adopt religious beliefs, that 
we are dominated in our political attitudes by suggestion. 
Everywhere the individual is guided by a kind of mysterious 
force which is at once the master of individual action and 
the least understood psychological influence in the world. 
Professor Ross draws all of the examples in the first half of 
his book from behavior which is half abnormal or wholly so. 
The Children's Crusade, the stigma put by the 61ite on com- 
mon toil, the dancing mania of religious fanatics, American 
dollarocracy, the fatalistic attitude of common people, are 
typical examples for Professor Ross of the kind of control over 
the individual which is exercised through social suggestion. 

The French sociologists have written in the same general 
vein. The mob is for Le Bon 2 the typical social group. 
Tarde 3 uses the term " imitation" in much the same way 
that Ross uses his favorite concept of suggestion. 

The result of the adoption of these mysterious and half- 
explained forces as the fundamentals of social theory is that 
writers on these subjects are likely to be impressed by 
pathological rather than normal manifestations of human 
mental life. Much current writing in sociology revels in 
sex psychology and explains governments as aggregations 

1 Ross, EDWARD ALSWORTH Social Psychology; Macmillan Co., 1908. 

2 LE BON, GUSTAVE The Crowd; London, 1903. 

3 TARDE, G. The Laws of Imitation. Translated by Parsons. Henry 
Holt & Co., 1903. 


of intrigue and family life as of the same type as life in an 
ant hill. Primitive nations are exhibited as the purest 
expressions of uncomplicated and undiluted group solidarity. 

It is not difficult to understand the reason why theorists 
have been overwhelmed by the mysterious when we note that 
the psychology which has been supplied as a basis of all the 
social sciences is individual psychology. When a person 
views the world of social influences from his personal point 
of view, there is something dominating and overwhelming 
and utterly inexplicable in social control. The individual 
finds himself conforming to customs and practices which he 
does not seem to have originated. In the circle of his intro- 
spective experience, social demands break in with a force 
that he cannot resist. The result of all this is that the 
individual, finding no fact in his own mind which corresponds 
directly to group will and group feeling, begins to compare 
social forces to those disrupting psychological forces which 
in cases of abnormality break down the continuity of mental 
life and seem to baffle explanation. 

If we would genuinely understand group consciousness 
and its relation to individual experience, we must have 
something broader than this individual psychology. We 
must get outside of our personal introspective experiences 
and look for realities which are just as concrete as our own 
visual impressions and muscular expressions, but so different 
in character from these facts of individual life that we must 
construct a wholly new type of psychology in order to give 
them adequate treatment. 

The point of view which is necessary in order to supply 
a psychology of the group has been illustrated in the two 
chapters immediately preceding this. It was shown in the 
chapter on tool consciousness that the group has by a succes- 
sion of steps gradually invented tools and in this way brought 
into the world certain technological creations which in turn 


have reacted on men's minds so as to change human modes 
of life and modes of thought in the most radical fashion. 
It was shown in the chapter immediately preceding this that 
the social group has built up in its system of exchange a new 
world of interaction between individuals. In this latter case 
the group has gone so far as to devise in money an instru- 
ment for the facilitation and standardization of commercial 
intercourse, which instrument is one of the most elaborate 
and abstract creations of human cooperation. 

The effects produced on the individual by his social con- 
tacts are not superficial or trivial. They are genuine trans- 
formations of his thinking and conduct. In an interesting 
article in the Psychological Review of 1896, Professor Dewey 
has described what he calls the patterns of consciousness 
which arise from various industrial specialties. What he 
has to say is worth quoting at length as reenforcement of 
the argument which has been presented in this chapter and 
in the earlier discussions of the industrial and commercial 

He writes as follows : 

We must recognize that mind has a pattern, a scheme of ar- 
rangement in its constituent elements, and that it is the business 
of a serious comparative psychology to exhibit these patterns, 

forms, or types in detail If we search in any social group 

for the special functions to which mind is thus relative, occupa- 
tions at once suggest themselves. Occupations determine the 
fundamental modes of activity, and hence control the formation 
and use of habits. These habits, in turn, are something more 
than practical and overt. "Apperceptive masses" and associa- 
tional tracts of necessity conform to the dominant activities. The 
occupations determine the chief modes of satisfaction, the stand- 
ards of success and failure. Hence they furnish the working 
classifications and definitions of value; they control the desire 
processes. Moreover, they decide the sets of objects and relations 
that are important, and thereby provide the content or material 


of attention, and the qualities that are interestingly significant. 
The directions given to mental life thereby extend to emotional 
and intellectual characteristics. So fundamental and pervasive 
is the group of occupational activities that it affords the scheme 
or pattern of the structural organization of mental traits. Oc- 
cupations integrate special elements into a functioning whole. 

Because the hunting life differs from, say, the agricultural, in the 
sort of satisfactions and ends it furnishes, in the objects to which 
it requires attention, in the problems it sets for reflection and 
deliberation, as well as in the psychophysic coordinations it 
stimulates and selects, we may well speak, and without metaphor, 
of the hunting psychosis or mental type. And so of the pastoral, 
the military, the trading, the manually productive (or manufac- 
turing) occupations, and so on. As a specific illustration of the 
standpoint and method, I shall take the hunting vocation, and 
that as carried on by the Australian aborigines. I shall try first 
to describe its chief distinguishing marks; and then to show 
how the mental pattern developed is carried over into various 
activities, customs and products, which on their face have nothing 
to do with the hunting life. If a controlling influence of this sort 
can be made out if it can be shown that art, war, marriage, 
etc., tend to be psychologically assimilated to the pattern devel- 
oped in the hunting vocation, we shall thereby get an important 
method for the interpretation of social institutions and cultural 
resources a psychological method for sociology. 1 

Another line of argument which reenforces the position 
taken throughout this chapter is supplied by Herbert Spencer. 
He points out that primitive man had a very limited range 
of experience in space and time, while civilized man has 
been able to extend his contacts and his ideas so as to cover 
vast stretches of space and time and to measure these with 
precision. Referring to the extension of space experience, 
he says : 

1 DEWEY, JOHN "Interpretation of Savage Mind/' Psychological Review, 
IX (1896), 217-230. 


From early races acquainted only with neighbouring localities, 
up to modern geographers who specify the latitude and longitude 
of every place on the globe from the ancient builders and 
metallurgists, knowing but surface-deposits, up to the geologists 
of our day whose data in some cases enable them to describe the 
material existing at a depth never yet reached by the miner 
from the savage barely able to say in how many days a full moon 
will return, up to the astronomer who ascertains the period of rev- 
olution of a double star there has been a gradual widening of 
the surrounding region throughout which the adjustment of 
inner to outer relations extends. 1 

The significance for our discussion of a series of facts such 
as these is that the individual has been changed in his breadth 
of interest and in his modes of thinking by the evolutions 
which have gone forward in the course of human history. 
It is not true that the modern astronomer is merely an animal 
or even an isolated human individual gazing into celestial 
space. The scientist has in his possession facts and insights 
and methods of thinking which the race has discovered and 
invented and he can extend and organize his experience in a 
way which is wholly impossible at the lower levels of life. 
Especially is there a sharp contrast between human interests 
and the interests and modes of consciousness of animals. 
Spencer, in pointing out this contrast with respect to the 
recognition of time, writes as follows : 

Save in respect to rapid mechanical changes, no correspondences 
of this order are shown by the lower classes of creatures; and, 
lacking as they do the ability to estimate time, even the higher 
mammals supply but few and imperfect examples of it. The lion 
that goes to the river-side at dusk to lie in wait for creatures coming 
to drink, and the house-dog standing outside the door in expec- 
tation that some one will presently open it, may be cited as ap- 

1 SPENCER, HERBERT Principles of Psychology, pp. 318-319 ; London, 
Williams and Norgate, 1890. 


proximative instances. But only when we come to the human 
race are correspondences of this degree of specialty exhibited with 
distinctness and frequency. In preparing his weapons against 
the approaching immigration of certain birds, in putting aside 
to dry the skins which he preserves for clothing, in making the 
fire by which to cook his food, the savage adapts his conduct to 
the special changes undergone by special bodies during definite 
intervals. 1 

There is in all this extension and systematization of 
personal experience nothing that needs to be hidden behind 
such vague words as " suggestion" or " imitation." The 
fact is that civilization has not merely accumulated inven- 
tions and new modes of adaptation to the world; it has 
also spent much of its energy in devising methods of giving 
individuals a broader experience and a broader view. The 
social system, by its methods of transportation, by its 
science of geography, and by its incentives for exploration, 
has supplied the individual with experiences which he could 
never have collected through his own restricted efforts. 
Through social cooperation the individual has become part 
of a social whole ; he has become in a very important sense 
of the term, society in miniature. Not only so, but because 
the individual becomes an embodiment of social modes of 
behavior and an exponent of social institutions, he serves as 
a powerful agency for the preservation and propagation of 
society's practices. The socialized individual is intolerant 
of provincialism and narrowness because the enlargement of 
his experiences of time and space leads him to seek the same 
extension of view for all with whom he is brought into 

The transformation which is wrought in individual human 
nature by the institutions of society is largely overlooked 
by those who attempt to find in instincts the sources of 

1 SPENCER, HERBERT op. cit., pp. 338-339. 


civilized modes of life. McDougall was the originator of a 
tendency in social psychology to derive society from indi- 
vidual instincts. 1 The degree of his absorption in instincts 
is shown by reference to the index of his Introduction to 
Social Psychology where one finds fourteen lines devoted to 
instincts and absolutely no mention of tools or money or 
those more elaborate institutions such as language and the 
fine arts to which we shall come in later chapters. 

A social psychology which is absorbed in a description 
of instincts is nothing but a transformed biology, oblivious of 
the fact that the human group has acquired a new mode of 
adaptation as much higher than instinct as instinct is higher 
than mechanical friction. Even from the point of view of a 
strictly individual psychology it is futile to attempt to cata- 
logue human traits in terms of instinct. Language is not 
an instinct. The skill exhibited in using a bow and arrow is 
not instinctive. The natural instinctive adjustments have 
to be greatly transcended when one rides a bicycle or drives 
an automobile. There is no instinct which explains the 
professional behavior of a banker. 

Individual life has become a series of acquired adaptations 
to social realities. Human conduct in civilized society 
cannot be explained by physical inheritance or biological 
adjustments because it has taken on the forms dictated by 
cooperative intelligence. Social demands are new facts in 
the world ; before their appearance the world was wholly 
different from that which confronts the individual living in 
modern civilization. Psychology will never give an ade- 
quate account of mental processes until it gives full regard to 
these facts. 

Perhaps it will be well to give these comments point by 
direct reference to McDougalFs position in his recent book. 

1 MCDOUGALL, WILLIAM An Introduction to Social Psychology; Methuen 
& Co., 1909. 


He devotes a chapter in this book to the discussion of the 
views of various writers, and ends by subscribing to the 
following passage from Mr. E. Barker's book, Political 
Thought in England from Herbert Spencer to the Present Day, 
as the most satisfactory definition of group mind : 

" All the institutions of a country, so far as they are effective, are 
not only products of thought and creations of mind : they are 
thought, and they are mind. Otherwise we have a building with- 
out a tenant, and a body without a mind. An Oxford college is 
not a group of buildings, though common speech gives that name 
to such a group : it is a group of men. But it is not a group of 
men in the sense of a group of bodies in propinquity : it is a group 
of men in the sense of a group of minds. That group of minds, in 
virtue of the common substance of an uniting idea, is itself a group- 
mind. There is no group-mind existing apart from the minds of 
the members of the group ; the group-mind only exists in the minds 
of its members. But nevertheless, it exists. There is a college 
mind, just as there is a Trade Union mind, or even a 'public mind' 
of the whole community ; and we are all conscious of such a mind 
as something that exists in and along with the separate minds of 
the members, and over and above any sum of those minds created 
by mere addition. " l 

McDougall then goes on in a series of chapters to illustrate 
the lower and higher forms of group mind. The mob is a 
lower form, the army is a higher and consciously organized 
group, and the nation is one of the highest forms of 
organized society especially such a nation as England. 

The difficulty with such discussions is that they leave the 
reader grasping at a vague abstraction. The group mind is 
something, somewhere. It gives out something to the indi- 
vidual from time to time, and it has a kind of perma- 
nence which makes it respectable if it is English in its traits 

1 M cDouGALL, WILLIAM The Group Mind, pp. 25-26 ; G. P. Putnam's 
Sons, 1920, 


and hardly so respectable if it inherits its characteristics 
from a less noble stock. 

The purpose of this critique and of the inductions of the 
earlier chapters in this book is to substitute the concept of 
social institutions for the vague ideas of a group mind. 
Civilization is a collection of realities; it has parts and 
aspects. It is dynamic and controlling. It is something 
to which the individual mind adapts itself and against which 
the individual mind can react. 

The advantage of such a view is that one may be entirely 
complacent in leaving to the metaphysician the invention of 
some kind of group mind and group will. The student of 
science is interested in this metaphysical abstraction only 
when it gets into action. Group action always results in 
some kind of institution. The institution is not the group 
but it is the product of cumulative group action and the 
source of group influence. The psychology of civilization 
may therefore take as its point of departure in every discus- 
sion some concrete institution. Money is an institution. 
It is not enough for scientific purposes to know that human 
minds, working on the problem of exchanging commodities, 
have devised this instrument. It is highly important that 
we note that money, when once devised, commands the 
attention of every newcomer in the group. Money domi- 
nates individual behavior and in so far as it does, we are 
justified in saying that the group, through its institutions, 
exercises control over the individual. Machine industry 
is an institution. It has made it possible for the group to 
produce vast stores of goods. It holds a great majority of 
individuals under its power. Daily these individuals toil 
and sometimes they rebel under the domination of machines 
which are at once the products of human genius and the 
masters of human lives. Social institutions are real and 
powerful influences in the world. There is no need of any 


remote abstraction in explaining the effect of the group on 
the individual if we consider the nature and influence of 
these institutions. 

If one is in need of a definition of a social group, one may 
think of it as that collection of human individuals which is 
capable of setting up an institution. The group has a con- 
sciousness or will just in the degree in which it can effec- 
tively launch its institutions. The institutions are as mani- 
fold as the needs of group cooperation. The only general 
definition that can be given of an institution is that it is a 
device for promoting human cooperation ; it takes material 
form in certain aids and instruments which have been evolved 
in the process of its establishment and in the process of its 

These definitions are nothing but abbreviated restate- 
ments of what has been said in concrete terms in the fore- 
going chapters of this book. The psychology needed as a 
basis of all social science is the study of human institutions. 



The institutions which were described in the foregoing 
chapters were selected for early discussion because they deal 
with concrete tangible objects which make it easy to see that 
human intelligence has produced by its cooperative effort 
something new in the world. We turn now to an institution 
which is not material and tangible, but is of the greatest 
influence in guiding human thought, namely, the number 
system. This institution with language and certain of the 
fine arts exhibits perhaps more fully than any other factor 
of civilization the way in which the mind of the group has 
reconstructed the world in which man lives. 

In the earliest stages of human life there was no number 
system. There was at those stages no exact quantitative 
thinking. A vague general idea of quantity, such as could 
be gained from direct perception, was all that men possessed. 
The character of this original experience of quantity can be 
judged from the common perceptual discriminations of which 
we are all capable in the presence of large or small objects 
and complex or simple groups. We recognize at once the 
difference between a crowd of people and a small company 
made up of four or five persons. 

There was little or no motive in primitive life for going 
beyond the direct perceptual evaluation of the objects of 
experience. The hunter, especially if he is alone, has no 
reason for defining the objects of his interest with greater 
exactness than his perceptions make possible. The family 


group is not in need of any elaborate system in order to make 
sure that its members are present. 

The demand for something higher than perceptual dis- 
crimination comes with the development of complex experi- 
ences. As soon as man acquired many possessions or as 
soon as the tribe took the place of the small compact family, 
it became necessary to invent some method of thinking 
clearly about numerous objects. Man resorted to a number 
of experiments in his efforts to satisfy his needs. These 
experiments are recorded in the history of number systems. 

The contrast between perception and the type of experi- 
ence which is made possible by the use of number may per- 
haps be rendered more emphatic by reference to some of the 
laboratory experiments which have been performed with a 
view to determining the limits of perceptual discrimination. 
Let an observer look at a group of fifteen dots scattered in 
irregular order over a square inch of paper and ask him to 
form so clear a picture of the group in his mind that he will 
know the next time he sees the group whether it is changed 
in any way. The observer looks fixedly at the dots in the 
effort to carry away a detailed image. He will at once 
recognize the fact that he is limited in the number of dots 
which he can master. He will try to help his limited power 
of perception by arranging the dots in various patterns. 
Usually he adopts in this effort to arrange the dots the device 
of counting which he has learned from the race. He has, 
thanks to his training in an advanced civilization, a method 
of dealing with the situation. The complex series of dots 
would baffle him if he were obliged to depend altogether on 
his powers of direct recognition. We see by the tendency of 
the observer to resort to his ability to count what it is that 
makes him superior to his savage ancestors. 

As men emerged from the lower stages of savagery and 
hunting to the higher levels of orderly tribal life they were 


increasingly confronted with complex situations in which 
some device had to be adopted in order to, supplement direct 
sense-perception. They were led, as was the subject in the 
laboratory experiment, to seek some method of arranging 
and systematizing experience. The nomadic herdsman, 
for example, had to keep track of his flock of sheep. In 
order to do this he used a simpler method than counting ; 
he gave heed to the individual characteristics of each member 
of the flock and gave to each member a name. 

We shall have occasion later when we take up the study of 
language to note that a name is a device for aiding thinking 
and for giving stability to discriminating consciousness. 
Names are, however, particular devices. They do not fall 
into a general scheme of arrangement such as the number 
system supplies. Names can be used, to be sure, in helping 
an observer to think of several different members of a group, 
but names have to be remembered and associated with a 
more or less complete recall of all the characteristics of the 
individual to whom the name has been applied. Naming 
is a clumsy device for keeping account of property. 

The invention of a series of number names and the transi- 
tion from particular designation of objects to abstract count- 
ing were long and laborious processes. This is shown by the 
fact that the earliest number words are names of objects. 

The Chinese name for " two " is ny or eul, both of which 
mean ears. The early user of these words evidently had in 
mind some such analogy as would be expressed by the sentence 
"I have as many of these as a man has ears." The mental 
comparison is between two mental pictures, both of which 
are concrete and both of which have in them much detail. 

Other examples of the same type are supplied by Gow in 
the following paragraph : 

Two is in Thibet paksha " wing " : in Hottentot VKoam "hand" : 
and so also among the Javanese, Samoyeds, Sioux and other 


peoples. So again with the Abipones, " four " is geyenknate, " os- 
trich-toes " : " five " is neenhalek, " a hide spotted with five colors " : 
with the Marquesans " four " ispona, " a bunch of four fruits," etc. 1 

The intimate relation between direct perception and the 
earliest names of numbers is further attested by the fact that 
primitive peoples have a very limited number vocabulary. 
They can carry enumeration only so far as their perceptual 
powers make it possible for them to make direct, concrete 
comparisons between the sizes of groups. The limitations 
of early number systems are clearly set forth in the following 
quotation : 

In certain parts of the world, notably among the native races of 
South America, Australia, and many of the islands of Polynesia 
and Melanesia, a surprising paucity of numeral words has been 
observed. The Encabellada of the Rio Napo have but two dis- 
tinct numerals; tey> 1, and cayapa, 2. The Chaco languages of 
the Guaycuru stock are also notably poor in this respect. In 
the Mbocobi dialect of this language, the only native numerals are : 
yna tvak, 1, and ynoaca, 2. The Puris count omi, 1, curiri, 2, 
prica, many; and the Botocudos, mokenam, 1, uruhu, many. 
The Fuegans, supposed to have been able at one time to count to 
10, have but three numerals kaoueli, 1, compaipi, 2, maten, 3. 
The Campas of Peru possess only three separate words for the 
expression of number, patrio, 1, pitteni, 2, mahuani, 3. Above 3 
they proceed by combinations, as 1 and 3 for 4, 1 and 1 and 3 for 5. 
Counting above 10 is, however, entirely inconceivable to them, 
and any number beyond that limit they indicate by tohaine, many. 
The Conibos, of the same region, had, before their contact with 
the Spanish, only atchoupre, 1, and rrdbui y 2; though they made 
some slight progress above 2 by means of reduplication. The 
Orejones, one of the low, degraded tribes of the Upper Amazon, 
have no names for number except nayhay, 1, necacome, 2, feni- 
nichacome, 3, ononocomere, 4. In the extensive vocabularies 

1 Gow, JAMES A Short History of Greek Mathematics, pp. 6-7 ; The 
Cambridge University Press, 1884. 


given by Von Martins, many similar examples are found. For 
the Bororos he gives only couai, 1, macouai, 2, ouai, 3. The last 
word, with the proper finger pantomime, serves also for any higher 
number which falls within the grasp of their comprehension. 
The Guachi manage to reach 5, but their numeration is of the 
rudest kind, as the following scale shows: tamak, 1, eu-echo, 2, 
eu-echo-kailau, 3, eu-echo-way , 4, localau, 5. The Carajas counted 
by a scale equally rude, and their conception of number seemed 
equally vague, until contact with the neighboring tribes furnished 
them with the means of going beyond their original limit. Their 
scale shows clearly the uncertain, feeble number sense which is so 
marked in the interior of South America. It contains wadewo, 1, 
wadebothoa, 2, wadeboaheado, 3, wadebojeodo, 4, wadewajouclay, 5, 
wadewasori, 6, or many. 1 

Several investigators have pointed out that the presence 
or absence of number names is not always safe ground on 
which to judge the extent to which savages have developed 
number ideas. Some tribes use gestures as substitutes for 
words and by this means are able to indicate numbers far 
above the point reached by their spoken vocabularies. 
However, even after full weight is given to such considera- 
tions, it remains quite certain that the range of number ideas 
is very limited among all savage tribes. 

The superficial inference which is sometimes drawn from 
such facts as the foregoing is that the savage mind is in some 
sense of less fine a quality than is the civilized mind. The 
general evidence does not support this conclusion. The 
savage turns his attention to matters other than those which 
commonly attract the civilized man. What the savage lacks 
is an instrument for carrying on quantitative thinking. The 
savage has a sufficiently good mind, but he is not equipped 
with a number system and as an individual he is not able to 

1 CON ANT, LEVI LEONARD The Number Concept, pp. 22-23 ; The Macmillan 
Company, 1896. 


invent such a system. If someone brought him such a 
system he would adopt it as indeed he has done again and 
again in the history of the world. His relation to number is 
exactly the same as his relation to technical tool-making and 
exchange. He has not yet discovered them. He lives at 
the level of immediate action and direct adaptation to his 
environment. Little by little men living in cooperative 
groups will invent and discover indirect modes of dealing 
with their environment, and as a result of the invention of a 
new method of dealing with objects every individual's mode 
of thinking and mode of living will be transformed. What is 
necessary is cooperative effort and time for the accumula- 
tion of the institutional capital in the form of a number 

The laboriousness of the process by which man has evolved 
his number systems is described by Conant in the following 
paragraphs : 

By the slow, and often painful, process incident to the extension 
and development of any mental conception in a mind wholly unused 
to abstractions, the savage gropes his way onward in his counting 
from 1, or more probably from 2, to the various higher numbers re- 
quired to form his scale. The perception of unity offers no difficulty 
to his mind, though he is conscious at first of the object itself rather 
than of any idea of number associated with it. The concept of 
duality, also, is grasped with perfect readiness. This concept is, 
in its simplest form, presented to the mind as soon as the indi- 
vidual distinguishes himself from another person, though the idea 
is still essentially concrete. Perhaps the first glimmering of any 
real number thought in connection with 2 comes when the savage 
contrasts one single object with another or, in other words, 
when he first recognizes the pair. At first the individuals com- 
posing the pair are simply " this one " and " that one/' or " this and 
that" ; and his number system now halts for a time at the stage 
when he can, rudely enough it may be, count 1, 2, many. There 
are certain cases where the forms of 1 and 2 are so similar that one 


may readily imagine that these numbers really were "this" and 
"that" in the savage's original conception of them; and the same 
likeness occurs in the words for 3 and 4, which may readily enough 
have been a second "this" and a second "that. " In Lushu tongue 
the words for 1 and 2 are tizi and tazi respectively. In Koriak we 
find ngroka, 3, and ngraka, 4 ; in Kolyma, niyokh, 3, and niyakh, 4 ; 
and in Kamtschatkan, tsuk, 3, and tsaak, 4. Sometimes, as in the 
case of the Australian races, the entire extent of the count is car- 
ried through by means of pairs. But the natural theory one would 
form is, that 2 is the halting place for a very long time ; that up to 
this point the fingers may or may not have been used prob- 
ably not ; and that when the next start is made, and 3, 4, 5, and 
so on are counted, the fingers first come into requisition. If the 
grammatical structure of the earlier languages of the world's 
history is examined, the student is struck with the prevalence of 
the dual number in them something which tends to disappear 
as language undergoes extended development. The dual number 
points unequivocally to the time when 1 and 2 were the numbers at 
mankind's disposal ; to the time when his three numeral concepts, 

1, 2, many, each demanded distinct expression. With increasing 
knowledge the necessity for this differentiation would pass away, 
and but two numbers, singular and plural, would remain. In- 
cidentally it is to be noticed that the Indo-European words for 
3 three, trois, drei, tres, tri, etc., have the same root as the 
Latin trans, beyond, and give us a hint of the time when our Aryan 
ancestors counted in the manner I have just described. 

The first real difficulty which the savage experiences in count- 
ing, the difficulty which comes when he attempts to pass beyond 

2, and to count 3, 4, and 5, is of course but slight; and these 
numbers are commonly used and readily understood by almost 
all tribes, no matter how deeply sunk in barbarism we find them. 
But the instances that have already been cited must not be for- 
gotten. The Chiquitos do not, in their primitive state, properly 
count at all ; the Andamans, the Veddas, and many of the Aus- 
tralian tribes have no numerals higher than 2 ; others of the Aus- 
tralians and many of the South Americans stop with 3 or 4; 
and tribes which make 5 their limit are still more numerous. 


Hence it is safe to assert that even this insignificant number is 
not always reached with perfect ease. Beyond 5 primitive man 
often proceeds with the greatest difficulty. 1 

The invention of a number system of wide range and 
universal applicability was accomplished through the use 
of the fingers. The fingers were concrete objects readily 
under the control of the person who was in need of a tally 
system. They are sufficiently numerous to rescue the mind 
from the limitations which are imposed so long as the names 
of small groups of perceptual objects furnished the only 
means of counting. They are always present and equally 
applicable to all kinds of situations. That the fingers were 
early used for purposes of counting is amply proved by the 
researches of the anthropologists. 

Gushing gives an account of the number system of the 
Zuni Indians. Their number words are as follows : 

1 topinte taken to start with. 

2 kwilli put down together with. 

3 hai the equally dividing finger. 

4 awite all the fingers all but done with. 

5 opte the notched off. 2 

This finishes the list of original simple numerals. Com- 
pounding now begins : 

6 topalikya another brought to add to the done with. 

7 kwillilikya two brought to and held up with the rest. 

8 hailikye three brought to and held up with the rest. 

9 tenalikya all but all are held up with the rest. 

10 astemthila all the fingers. 

11 astem'thla 

topayathl'tona all the fingers and another over above held. 3 

1 CON ANT, LEVI LEONARD op. tit., pp. 74-76. 

2 GUSHING, F. H. " Manual Concepts, " American Anthropologist, V (1892), 


The method of compounding indicated in designating 11 is 
used in the succeeding numerals up to 19. Then follow 
such compound expressions as the following : 

20 kwillik'yenastem'thlan two times all the fingers. 

100 assiastem'thlak'ya the fingers all the fingers. 

1000 assiastem'thlanak'yenastem'thla the fingers all the fingers 

times all the fingers. 1 

The fact that modern number systems have 10 as their 
base shows that the use of the fingers came to be fairly uni- 
versal in building up number series. The discovery of the 
possibility of clarifying thought by using the fingers was one 
of the great discoveries of primitive man. Gow comment- 
ing on the historical facts uncovered by a study of language 
writes as follows : 

It has been already pointed out that in Aryan languages there is 
a difference in kind between the first three or four numerals and 
the last seven or six. The former are adjectives and are so in- 
flected : the latter are nouns neuter in form and uninflected ; 
interjections, as it were, thrust into the sentence in brackets, like 
the dates in a history-book. This difference in kind seems to point 
to a difference in etymology and also in antiquity. The higher 
numerals, being nouns, are names of things, and, being uninflected, 
are names of things which are not really connected with, and subject 
to, the same relations as the other things mentioned in the same 
sentence. Secondly, the general abruptness of the transition from 
low inflected numerals to higher uninflected forms points to some 
sudden stride in the art of counting. All the facts are readily 
explained if we conceive that among the Aryans, as among many 
other races, the counting of low numbers was learned before the 
use of the fingers suggested itself, and that so soon as the fingers 
were seen to be the natural abacus, a great advance in arithmetic 
was immediately made. The higher unit-numerals would then 
be the names of the gestures made in finger-counting, or, as among 

1 Ibid. 


the Algonquins, etc., the actual names of the fingers in the order 
in which they were exhibited in counting. 1 

The use of the fingers with the accompanying word series 
as a means of expressing number led to the evolution of the 
abstract idea of a series. This idea was not present at first, 
the fingers being used in the beginning without reference to 
their full serial possibility. Thus Schmidl cites a number of 
instances in which the fingers are used by African tribes in 
counting but not in such a fashion as to indicate the presence 
of the full serial idea. 2 For example ; when the Kinga and 
Nyaturn tribes want to express 5, they close the fist and 
place the thumb between the middle finger and the ring 
finger, in this way making a combination of 2 + 1 + 2. 
They evidently can carry in mind the collection of small 
units represented by the five fingers, but it does not occur 
to them to spread out the hand and note all five fingers 
at once. Schmidl reports also an observation made by 
Dennet on the natives of the French Kongo. When they 
count up to 5, they do so by tracing on the ground a series 
of tallies ; the first is made by the index finger, the second 
by the middle finger. When the middle finger is making its 
stroke, the index finger repeats the first tally by tracing it 
again. The third and fourth tallies are traced by the index 
finger or by a repetition of the method employed in tallying 
1 and 2. The fifth stroke is a cross stroke binding together 
the two groups of 2. 

These examples show that the idea of a full series of 5 
does not arise from the mere existence of five fingers on one 
hand. The notion of a series of 5 has to be evolved by much 
practice with shorter series. 

1 Gow, JAMES op. cit., pp. 9-10. 

2 SCHMIDL, MARIANNE Zahl und Zdhlen in Afrika, pp. 163-209; Mit- 
theilungen der Anthroplogischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 1915. 


As soon as the notion of a series emerges there are opened 
up endless possibilities of expression. The evolution then 
turns in the direction of a refinement of the series idea. 
Here early races added to the manual series more or less 
elaborate systems of tallykeeping. Several examples may 
be borrowed from the history of mathematics. 


Jj YYY = O; YYY I -/; YYYY-O; 
Y=9, <= 10; < J = 12, <^=tt. 

^=100, t=221 ; = 1000. 

-= 10000 




The first example, taken from Sterner and reproduced in 
Figure V, is the Chaldean system as found in the cuneiform 
writings. 1 It will be noted that the numbers beyond 3 in 
this system are composite, indicating that the span of atten- 
tion then, as now, is approached by three objects unless the 

1 STERNER, MATTHXUS Geschichte der Rechenkunst, p. 26; Miinchen und 
Leipzig; Oldenbourg, 1891. 



series is grouped so that each subdivision of the group may be 
seen as a new kind of unit. 

One of the methods used by the Egyptians in recording 
the number series is given by Sterner as shown in Figure VI. 

The Roman system of notation is sufficiently familiar to 
render unnecessary its reproduction here. One peculiarity 

I. 2. 3- 

0.00. DO 

TO. II. 12. 

20. 32. 

I CO. 200. 122. 

IOOO. 2OOO. II200O. <>o 

IOOOO. 20OOO. 10514, 

u 00000 00 


of this system of notation is so distinctly psychological in 
its character that it calls for comment. There are several 
points in the Roman system where a number is expressed by 
subtracting from a number which is of nodal importance. 
Thus nine is one less than ten. The mental process here 
involved is one of concentration on the complete number 10, 
and a recognition of the fact that this number is approxi- 


mated but not fully attained. There are other examples of 
this type which can be found in other systems. 

Conant enumerates among others the following cases : 

The origin of numerals of this class is to be found in the idea of 
reference, not necessarily to the last, but to the nearest, halting- 
point in the scale. Many tribes seem to regard 9 as "almost 10," 
and to give it a name which conveys this thought. In the Mis- 
sissaga, one of the numerous Algonquin languages, we have, for 
example, the word cangaswi, "incomplete 10 " for 9. In the Kwa- 
kiutl of British Columbia, 8 as well as 9 is formed in this way ; 
these two numbers being matlguanatl, 10 2, and nanema } 101, 
respectively. In many of the languages of British Columbia we 
find a similar formation for 8 and 9, or for 9 alone. The same 
formation occurs in Malay, resulting in the numerals delapan, 10 2, 
and sambilan, 10 1. In Green Island, one of the New Ireland 
group, these become simply andra-lua, "less 2," and andra-si, 
" less 1." In the Admiralty Islands this formation is carried back 
one step further, and not only gives us shua-luea, " less 2," and 
shu-rij " less 1," but also makes 7 appear as sua-tolu, " less 3." Sur- 
prising as this numeral is, it is more than matched by the Ainu 
scale, which carries subtraction back still another step, and calls 6, 
10 4. The four numerals from 6 to 9 in this scale are respectively, 
iwa, 10 4, arawa, 10 3, tupe-san, 10 2, and sinepe-san, 101. 
Numerous examples of this kind of formation will be found in later 
chapters of this work ; but they will usually be found to occur in 
one or both of the numerals, 8 and 9. Occasionally they appear 
among the higher numbers ; as in the Maya languages, where, for ex- 
ample, 99 years is " one single year lacking from five score years," 
and in the Arikara dialects, where 98 and 99 are " 5 men minus " 
and " 5 men 1 not." The Welsh, Danish, and other languages 
less easily accessible than these to the general student, also fur- 
nish interesting examples of a similar character. 

More rarely yet are instances met with of languages which make 
use of subtraction almost as freely as addition, in the composition 
of numerals. Within the past few years such an instance has been 
noticed in the case of the Bellacoola language of British Columbia. 


In their numeral scale 15, " one foot/' is followed by 16, " one man 
less 4 " ; 17, " one man less 3 " ; 18, " one man less 2 " ; 19, " one 
man less 1" ; and 20, " one man." Twenty-five is " one man and 
one hand " ; 26, " one man and two hands less 4 " ; 36, " two men 
less 4 " ; and so on. This method of formation prevails through- 
out the entire numeral scale. 1 


By the time number series were as fully established 
as the foregoing paragraphs indicate, it became possible for 
men to perform some of the simpler operations of addition 
and subtraction, and even to use certain devices which an- 
ticipate in fundamental character the process of multiplica- 
tion. The number series which have been described show 
abundant evidence of the mastery of simple addition. The 
prominence of 3 in the Chaldean system and the special 
character of 5 and 10 in many other systems show the 
beginnings of multiplication. Beyond these evidences, it is 
noted by anthropologists that savage tribes often use notches 
cut in sticks or knots tied in strings or pebbles or shells to 
mark the completion of some minor unit in the series of 
enumerations. Thus in certain cases each time 5 is reached 
in a count on the fingers, a stick is laid aside as a counter. 
The counters thus become units of a higher order. 

As soon as men learned to manipulate tallies and combine 
them through processes of addition, they began to have ideas 
which are pure ideas of number rather than comparisons of 
groups of objects with one another. The number system 
began to take on an independent character as a system of 
thought. The mind of man had created a device which 
nature had not provided, but which has proved to be of 
major importance in its influence on human history. 

One cannot contemplate the growth of science without 
realizing that most of its achievements would be absolutely 

1 CONANT, LEVI LEONARD op. cit., pp. 44-46. 


impossible without the use of numbers. Even the common 
relations of modern life are dependent for their precision on 
number and the related devices of measurement which have 
been made possible through the applications of number to 
weights and measures. 

It is not too much to say that the attitude of civilized man 
is one of demanding quantitative exactness and numerical 
equity in all the transactions of life. If one tries to imagine 
what the world would be with number taken out of it, one 
begins to understand what is meant by the statement so 
often repeated in this book that man has made his environ- 
ment through his invention of institutions. 

In the case of number the institution is so nearly a purely 
mental affair that it serves perhaps better than do tools or 
money to emphasize the extent to which modern civilization 
is made up of intellectual contributions. 

The statement that number is purely mental must be 
qualified. Even at the highest levels of civilized thought 
we think of numbers by picturing in our minds the written 
symbols or by sounding to ourselves the number names. 
There is thus a sensory or imagery basis for even our most 
abstract thinking. The sensory elements of the number 
system are, however, not the dominant elements. The ideas 
of comparison and definition are the important factors in 
the experience of number. 

The highly abstract and immaterial character of the num- 
ber system may be emphasized by calling attention to the 
fact that the ideas which arise in consciousness in the pres- 
ence of a number are in many cases wholly unrelated to the 
quantitative meanings which these symbols were devised to 
express. Schmidl states that in Semitic and Indo-Germanic 
traditions there is a taboo against counting living beings 
such as men or animals, and also against counting valuables, 
lest the envy of evil spirits should be aroused. It is also 


related on the authority of Jurrod that when a native of the 
Thonga tribe was asked how many people there were in a 
certain company, he replied, "What! Do you want to 
count us? Who is here that you want to destroy ?" The 
taboo here described arises evidently out of the purely 
subjective association between the number system and a 
fear on the part of the thinker. The mind has within 
itself both kinds of experience, the number idea and fear. 
There is a possibility in the subjective world of these 
two experiences arising together. They become associated 
when they occur simultaneously and the result is a wholly 
unmathematical and wholly intangible, but very real, con- 

Let us consider another series of purely subjective asso- 
ciations. Many such were set up by the Pythagoreans, a 
group of Greeks, disciples of Pythagoras, who flourished in 
the sixth century before Christ. Aristotle reports that 
Pythagoras taught that 5 is the cause of color, 6 of cold, 7 of 
mind and health and light, 8 of love and friendship and 
invention. In commenting on the vagaries of this early 
Greek thinking, Gow remarks : 

Primitive men, on seeing a new thing, look out especially for 
some resemblance in it to a known thing, so that they may call 
both by the same name. This develops a habit of pressing small 
and partial analogies. It also causes many meanings to be at- 
tached to the same word. Hasty and confused theories are the 
inevitable result. 1 

Associations of the type described in the foregoing para- 
graph are not unknown in modern times. Prejudice and 
fear are coupled with the number 13. Whatever the his- 
torical sources of these unfavorable associations, the fact 
remains that they are purely subjective. They are psycho- 

1 Gow, JAMES op. cit., p. 67. 


logically possible because the number system is abstract and 
capable of attaching to itself any accidental association which 
is not warded off by critical thinking. 

While the abstract number system is capable of taking on 
arbitrary and wholly accidental associations, it is also capable 
of refinement through the careful study of its own logical 
implications. Given the idea that 2 and 2 make 4 and that 
1 and 1 make 2, it is readily possible to show that 2 and 1 
and 1 must make 4. Any refusal on the part of a rational 
being to accept this series of propositions shows that he 
has not refined his thought processes by critical analy- 
sis. This simple illustration shows what is meant by the 
statement that the mind following its own laws can evolve 
a series of propositions all of which must be true if one is 

Furthermore, it is a highly important fact that, when the 
logical necessities of number thinking have once been re- 
vealed through critical reasoning, the mind can retain the con- 
clusion and can attach the conclusion to the numbers con- 
cerned without fully repeating the original train of thought. 
Thus if one has determined that 4 and 3 make 7, and is 
satisfied that the conclusion is valid, it is not thereafter 
necessary to go through the whole process of critical thought 
by which the conclusion was reached. All that is necessary 
is that 3 and 4 and 7 be united by a fixed association, and 
memory will operate as a substitute for the critical process 
which justifies this association. 

Mathematical thinking may thus become a mixture of 
rational trains of logical thought and purely mechanical 
memories. As a result of its abstract character the number 
series is at once open, as the foregoing illustrations show, 
to all kinds of fallacious associations and also to the 
most useful reductions to simple and readily available 



An illustration of a mixture of logic and memory with an 
element of pure superstition is found in the so-called " magic 
squares " : 










The numbers in these squares total 15 in whatever direc- 
tion they are added. So much have men in many ages and 
countries been impressed by this series of combinations, that 
in Europe in the Middle Ages it was used as a charm to drive 
away disease and to bring good fortune, and in China and 
elsewhere in the Orient it serves to-day the same superstitious 

The last stages in the perfection of the number system are 
of special interest because they are recent enough so that we 
can describe them on the basis of a large body of accessible 
evidence and because they show with perfect clearness that 
an intellectual institution can be passed on by one generation 
or one people to another very much as a material object can 
be taken from place to place. The number system which is 
used to-day everywhere in the civilized world is not a native 
product of European thought ; it was borrowed at a com- 
paratively recent date from the Orient. The very name 
" Arabic numerals" makes it clear that Europe took its num- 
ber system from a source wholly different from that which 
supplied modern occidental states with language or govern- 
ment or social customs. Once the Arabic system came into 
Europe it superseded for all practical purposes the clumsy 
Roman system which preceded it. 

In order to understand the fundamental virtues of the 
Arabic system it is necessary to go back to the history of the 



mechanical devices which men invented to aid themselves in 
making calculations. 

One of the earliest devices for using numbers and testing 
the logic of number combinations was a mechanical con- 
trivance, the abacus. A common form of this device, em- 
ployed even to-day in many parts of the world to aid the mind 
and record the results of its operations with numbers, is 
shown in Figure VII. Beads are strung on a number of 
vertical wires and the wires are fastened in a frame. The 
frame is divided by a horizontal bar into an upper and a 
lower compartment. Each wire 
carries in the lower compartment 
five beads and in the upper com- 
partment two. The person who 
uses the abacus tallies off on the 
extreme right-hand wire in the 
lower compartment each unit 
which he wishes to record until he 
has pushed five beads to the top 
of this right-hand lower wire. He 
then records the fact that he has 
exhausted the possibilities of the 
first row of unit beads by drawing 
down one of the two beads in the 

upper compartment on the extreme right wire. He repeats 
the operation until he has drawn down the two upper right- 
hand beads. He now substitutes for these, one bead on the 
second right-hand wire in the lower compartment. Each 
bead on this second wire in the lower part of the frame thus 
stands for ten objects. In like fashion each bead on the 
third wire in the lower part of the frame stands for one hun- 
dred objects, and so on. 

The psychological value of the abacus is that it relieves 
the mind of the necessity of carrying an immense amount of 



detail. It records each step of the number thinking per- 
formed by the mind in such a way that the next step can be 
taken with the full advantage of what has been thought out 
before. The inventive mind of man has thus provided 
itself with a recording device which is a reflection of its own 
operations and at the same time an invaluable support to 
further and more elaborate thinking. 

A unique virtue of the abacus record is that it takes 
advantage of position to enlarge the range of the number 
series. A bead on one wire means a higher number than the 
bead on another wire. This positional method of recording 
number reduces to a minimum the demand for distinctive 
symbols to express numbers of higher denominations. While 
the Roman system was obliged to resort to the letters L, C, 
D, and M, the abacus made it possible to represent each of 
these higher numbers with the same kind of a bead as that 
used to represent a number of lower order. Position thus 
came to have a major significance in the number system. 

The abacus is not the product of individual endeavor. For 
long centuries before the form described in a foregoing 
paragraph was perfected, the principle underlying its con- 
struction was recognized and employed in various crude 
forms. Instead of wires for the different denominations of 
numbers, lines in sand were used. Instead of beads, pebbles 
or shells were employed. From such crude beginnings the 
later perfected instrument was derived. 

The development of the abacus required the expenditure 
of a great deal of attention and the exercise of much in- 
genuity. The abacus is like any other tool in this respect. 
The discussion of an earlier chapter should be kept in mind 
as one considers the relations of the number system to me- 
chanical devices. A tool is a device to which men find it 
advantageous to give thought and energy because of the 
ultimate saving in energy which it accomplishes. At the 


time of its invention and throughout the process of its im- 
provement, it distracts the mind from the ends which it is 
intended to serve. Thus the arrow maker is taken away 
from the hunt in order to manufacture arrow points. The 
abacus maker is not at the time of his devotion to the instru- 
ment which he is making, using the number system for any 
practical purpose. The abacus operator also finds it neces- 
sary to devote much time and energy to a mastery of his 
instrument- It is said that an expert can add figures with 
the Chinese suan pan as fast as they can be dictated to him. 
Such skill can come only through long practice. We express 
the facts by saying that the operator must learn to use the 
abacus. Such learning will be facilitated by an under- 
standing of the principles of number combination, but learn- 
ing the abacus and learning the use of numbers are two 
different kinds of mental activity. Both require time and 
effort ; they are therefore in a sense in competition with each 
other. It is only when both types of learning are complete 
that they unite and produce a kind of proficiency which 
would be impossible if only one kind of learning were under- 
taken by the individual. 

From what has been said, it is easy to formulate a state- 
ment which is of great significance for the psychology of 
intellectual institutions. The mind has developed in its 
various institutions modes of behavior and modes of thinking 
which are not present in the early stages of individual think- 
ing and which enormously extend experience. This inven- 
tion of institutions and the mastery of them absorb very 
legitimately a great deal of the mental energy of the race. 

While the abacus extended the usefulness of the number 
system and made possible elaborate calculations, it had the 
distinct disadvantage of being a thing quite apart from the 
mind that used it. The training of the mind which uses an 
abacus is not complete because the processes of combination 


which such a mind uses are mechanical and external. The 
abacus served a useful purpose in that stage of civilization 
when the mind of man had not attained to a number system 
which is detached from all mechanical devices and yet 
possessed of all of the virtues that the mechanical device 
contributes. The abacus gave way to a perfected number 
system as soon as that appeared. 

The Arabic numeral system has the virtues of positional 
range and simplicity of expression and other virtues which 
no earlier system possessed. The Arabic numbers are 
human inventions. They are the products of long ages of 
cooperative thinking. They were first used in India and 
after traveling across Arabia and possibly across Africa and 
Spain, they came to the consciousness of Europe. Until they 
arrived, Europe had been using the Roman system. This 
system is a decided improvement over the limited systems 
of primitive peoples, but it suffers from serious defects. 
Conspicuous among these is the impossibility of any of the 
more elaborate arithmetical operations. Let anyone try 
to set down a problem in multiplication in Roman numbers 
and he becomes instantly aware of the clumsiness of that 
system as contrasted with the Arabic system. Even addi- 
tion is a cumbersome operation. Europe was, however, so 
thoroughly committed to this system that it did not occur to 
her native thinkers to abandon it. 

The arrival of the Arabic numerals in Europe and their 
adoption as the means of all exact quantitative thinking are 
described by Smith and Karpinski in the following passages : 

As a matter of fact, it was not until the ninth or tenth century 
that there is any tangible evidence of their presence in Christendom. 
They were probably known to merchants here and there, but in 
their incomplete state they were not of sufficient importance to 
attract any considerable attention. 

As a result of this brief survey of the evidence several con- 


elusions seem reasonable : (1) commerce, and travel for travel ; s 
sake, never died out between the East and the West; (2) mer- 
chants had every opportunity of knowing, and would have been 
unreasonably stupid if they had not known, the elementary 
number systems of the peoples with whom they were trading, 
but they would not have put this knowledge in permanent written 
form; (3) wandering scholars would have known many and 
strange things about the peoples they met, but they too were not, 
as a class, writers ; (4) there is every reason a priori for believing 
that the gobar numerals would have been known to merchants, 
and probably to some of the wandering scholars, long before the 
Arabs conquered northern Africa ; (5) the wonder is not that the 
Hindu- Arabic numerals were known about 1000 A.D., and that 
they were the subject of an elaborate work in 1202 by Fibonacci, 
but rather that more extended manuscript evidence of their 
appearance before that time has not been found. That they 
were more or less known early in the Middle Ages, certainly to 
many merchants of Christian Europe, and probably to several 
scholars, but without the zero, is hardly to be doubted. The 
lack of documentary evidence is not at all strange, in view of all 
of the circumstances. 1 

The opposition to the adoption of the new numerals and 
the gradual spread of their use are sketched in the following 
paragraphs : 

The period from the time of Gerbert until after the appearance 
of Leonardo's monumental work may be called the period of the 
abacists. Even for many years after the appearance early in the 
twelfth century of the books explaining the Hindu art of reck- 
oning, there was strife between the abacists, the advocates of the 
abacus, and the algorists, those who favored the new numerals. 
The words cifra and algorismus zifra were used with a somewhat 
derisive significance, indicative of absolute uselessness, as indeed 
the zero is useless on an abacus in which the value of any unit is 

Arabic Numerals, p. 90; Ginn & Co., 1911. 


given by the column which it occupies. So Gautier de Coincy 
(1177-1236) in a work on the miracles of Mary says : 

A horned beast, a sheep, 

An algorismus-cipher, 

Is a priest, who on such a feast day 

Does not celebrate the holy Mother. 

So the abacus held the field for a long time, even against the new 
algorism employing the new numerals. 

Of the medieval writers, probably the one most influential in 
introducing the new numerals to the scholars of Europe was 
Leonardo Fibonacci, of Pisa. This remarkable man, the most 
noteworthy mathematical genius of the Middle Ages, was born 
at Pisa about 1175. 

Leonardo's father was a commercial agent at Bugia, the modern 
Bougie, the ancient Saldse on the coast of Barbary, a royal capital 
under the Vandals and again, a century before Leonardo, under the 
Beni Hammad. It had one of the best harbors on the coast, 
sheltered as it is by Mt. Lalla Guraia, and at the close of the 
twelfth century it was a center of African commerce. It was 
here that Leonardo was taken as a child, and here he went to 
school to a Moorish master. When he reached the years of young 
manhood he started on a tour of the Mediterranean Sea, and vis- 
ited Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily, and Provence, meeting with 
scholars as well as with merchants, and imbibing a knowledge of 
the various systems of numbers in use in the centers of trade. 
All these systems, however, he says he counted almost as errors 
compared with that of the Hindus. Returning to Pisa, he wrote 
his Liber Abaci in 1202, rewriting it in 1228. In this work the 
numerals are explained and are used in the usual computations 
of business. Such a treatise was not destined to be popular, 
however, because it was too advanced for the mercantile class, 
and too novel for the conservative university circles. Indeed, at 
this time mathematics had only slight place in the newly es- 
tablished universities, as witness the oldest known statute of 
the Sorbonne at Paris, dated 1215, where the subject is referred 
to only in an incidental way. The period was one of great com- 


mercial activity, and on this very account such a book would 
attract even less attention than usual. 

It would now be thought that the western world would at once 
adopt the new numerals which Leonardo had made known, and 
which were so much superior to anything that had been in use in 
Christian Europe. The antagonism of the universities would 
avail but little, it would seem, against such an improvement. It 
must be remembered, however, that there was great difficulty in 
spreading knowledge at this time, some two hundred and fifty 
years before printing was invented. " Popes and princes and 
even great religious institutions possessed far fewer books than 
many farmers of the present age. The library belonging to the 
Cathedral Church of San Martino at Lucca in the ninth century 
contained only nineteen volumes of abridgments from eccle- 
siastical commentaries. 77 Indeed, it was not until the early part 
of the fifteenth century that Palla degli Strozzi took steps to 
carry out the project that had been in the mind of Petrarch, the 
founding of a public library. It was largely by word of mouth, 
therefore, that this early knowledge had to be transmitted. For- 
tunately the presence of foreign students in Italy at this time 
made this transmission feasible. (If human nature was the same 
then as now, it is not impossible that the very opposition of the 
faculties to the works of Leonardo led the students to investigate 
them the more zealously.) At Vicenza in 1209, for example, 
there were Bohemians, Poles, Frenchmen, Burgundians, Germans, 
and Spaniards, not to speak of representatives of divers towns of 
Italy ; and what was true there was also true of other intellectual 
centers. The knowledge could not fail to spread, therefore, and 
as a matter of fact we find numerous bits of evidence that this 
was the case. Although the bankers of Florence were forbidden 
to use these numerals in 1299, and the statutes of the university 
of Padua required stationers to keep the price lists of books "non 
per cifras, sed per literas claros," the numerals really made much 
headway from about 1275 on. 

It was, however, rather exceptional for the common people 
of Germany to use the Arabic numerals before the sixteenth 
century, a good witness to this fact being the popular almanacs. 


Calendars of 1457-1496 have generally the Roman numerals, 
while KobePs calendar of 1518 gives the Arabic forms as subor- 
dinate to the Roman. In the register of the Kreuzschule at 
Dresden the Roman forms were used even until 1538. 1 

The discussion of the Arabic numerals will not be complete 
for our purposes without special comment on the importance 
of the character zero. This single character is essential to 
the system as a place marker. It serves in the numeral 
system much the same purpose as do the fixed wires in the 
abacus. Without it the digits could not express units, tens, 
hundreds and higher denominations. The zero seems to be 
a relatively late addition to the system of characters and 
certainly its importation into Europe is later than that of 
the other numerals. Its presence in the system shows the 
extent to which abstraction had attained, for nothing can 
be more abstract than a symbol the sole function of which is 
to hold a place. 

The complete realization of the value of the Arabic system 
did not come with the adoption of the characters for the 
simple purposes of counting and addition. The centuries 
which have followed the adoption of this system in Europe 
are filled with inventive efforts to use the numerals for such 
processes as multiplication and division. Device after 
device, table after table have been invented to facilitate 
elaborate arithmetical processes. The modern child in the 
schools and the banker who uses a table prepared to facili- 
tate the calculation of interest, are inheriting not only from 
Leonardo but also from a host of mathematicians and prac- 
tical men who have spent time and mental effort in devising 
methods of combining the numerals in new and useful ways. 

For the purposes of our discussion, the history of the 
number system has been followed far enough. It remains to 

1 SMITH, D. E., and KARPINSKI, L. C. op. tit., pp. 128-133. 


point out explicitly some of the psychological lessons that 
our survey yields. 

First, it is evident that number thinking cannot be ex- 
plained by describing human instincts. There is no instinct 
which will lead a child to calculate with the abacus or to 
acquire the Arabic numerals through laborious attention to 
their intricate forms. Addition, multiplication, division, 
and subtraction require the mastery by the child of sym- 
bols, forms of behavior, and types of interest which are far 
removed from those with which he was born. 

Second, the existence of a perfected scheme of number 
thinking has so expanded human experience in the direction 
of exact number calculations that modern minds are capable 
of types of thinking which must have been altogether im- 
possible in primitive life. We are prone to think of primitive 
man in negative terms ; he did not have tools or money or 
Arabic numerals. If we could make an intimate comparison 
of our experiences with his, we should doubtless find that 
our absorption in modern modes of thinking has withdrawn 
us from many of the observations which fill the mental ho- 
rizon of the savage. He would say to us, " How empty your 
eyes are, you did not see that rustling leaf which gave evi- 
dence of the escaping squirrel. You are deaf, you did not 
hear that faint call which means that we are detected by the 
herd of wild sheep. You do not smell, you did not notice the 
odor of woods which means the coming of the storm. ' ' Above 
all, primitive man would be utterly unable to comprehend 
the absorption of the mathematician in the pursuit of his 
abstract solutions of number problems. Modern devices of 
thinking have brought into being a world of new ideas and 
new interests. There has been set up through this transfer 
of mental energy a new series of goals for ambition and a 
new series of recognized social values. Men are proud of 
their ability to add rapidly to-day, while primitive man was 


proud of his skill in the hunt, in war, and in the practical 
arts which he practiced. 

Third, the evolution of a number system has gone so far 
that the individual mind finds itself dominated by the 
system. We are all compelled by the very perfection of 
the number system which society possesses to submit our 
thinking to rigid training which leads to conformity to the 
system. Society very often does not even take the trouble 
to explain to the individual why he should thus follow its 
practices. Society insists that its scheme is so much better 
than any other which can be devised that it imposes its 
methods of operation on all comers. It is literally true in 
modern life that an individual cannot maintain himself 
socially or physically unless he can share in the general 
social use of number. 



There is no device more useful in promoting civilized 
cooperation on a large scale than a universally accepted plan 
for reckoning time. When we consider the fact that the 
industrial system, including the scale of wages, is regulated 
by time ; when we think of the impossibility of a safe and 
convenient system of transportation without time tables and 
all that they imply ; when we think of social engagements 
and their dependence on the ability to name days and hours ; 
when we recall that religious festivals have been one of the 
chief centers of interest in the making of the calendar, we 
begin to realize what time measurement means to civiliza- 

The savage supplied with only the crudest methods of 
observing the grosser natural indications of the passage of 
time, and without names with which to designate successive 
periods, is controlled by a great variety of motives which in 
the case of civilized man have been superseded by what we 
call routine. The savage typically works only when he is in 
need of food or comfort. The motive for effort with him is 
direct and immediate. He responds vigorously to hunger, to 
light and darkness, to heat and cold, that is, he accommodates 
himself at any given moment to the facts in his environ- 
ment which are most impressive. Contrast with him the 
modern workingman who goes to his task at the same hour 
in the morning winter and summer, or think of the regularity 
with which the modern family gathers about the dinner 



table at a perfectly well-understood hour toward which all 
the domestic machinery has been converging. 

The impressive fact about the modern method of life is 
that it finally takes so firm a hold on the individual that 
he becomes a living embodiment of the social demand that 
everyone guide his conduct by the clock. The impatience of 
the man who finds a train thirty minutes behind the sched- 
ule and, still more, the petulance of the man who finds his 
dinner belated by that span of time, are familiar illustrations 
of the fact that an institution accepted as a part of civiliza- 
tion ultimately becomes the source of definite expectations 
and forms of behavior in the individual. The demand for 
punctuality is a fact which reaches into the individual 
nervous system and dominates the behavior and thinking 
of each and every member of civilized society. Routine 
has become the controlling fact in our lives and once we have 
adopted the regular program which our watches dictate, we 
are forever lost to that life of response to accidental motives 
which characterizes the savage. 

Civilization did not tame the savage and make him a 
routinist in a day. There were long ages when the authority 
of religion had to be invoked and the call to prayer had to 
be enforced on a reluctant group. The strict discipline of 
military organization must even now impress itself on the 
recruit through many long days of training and campaigning 
before the soldier learns that cooperation is effective only 
when it is well timed. The modern child has to be punished, 
sometimes severely, for the wholly artificial offense of being 
late. In order to make these different types of training 
possible, human ingenuity had to expend itself lavishly in 
devising ways of dividing the day into precise subdivisions 
and the year into namable months and days. 

Here, as in a number of other cases which have been 
canvassed in earlier chapters, the objective facts very often 


have attracted so much attention that the related psycho- 
logical facts have been overlooked. Time has been a sub- 
ject of a great deal of scientific study. The physicist and 
the astronomer have devoted much energy to its measure- 
ment and to its definition. These scientists have, however, 
thought of time as a fact of nature, not as a system of 
organized human experience. 

How is the psychologist to make clear his relation to this 
matter? He can study and has studied the accuracy with 
which the individual can estimate short intervals of time. 
He can write on the apparent differences between the dura- 
tion of periods which are filled with interesting experiences 
and the duration of periods which are empty. The 
psychology of time is, however, of infinitely greater scope 
than is revealed by these studies of individual recognition 
of time and intervals. The whole mechanism of recording 
time is man's contribution to the world. Hours and min- 
utes and seconds are human inventions. Nature furnished 
objective time, but man subdivided it into units by which 
he can control his own conduct and that of his fellows. He 
has come to see that all of his thinking even about objective 
time is made more precise through the subdivisions which 
he has worked out. What he often does not see is that his 
own nature has been regulated as a result of his exact 
measurement of time. 

An outline of the steps which man has taken in passing 
from the savage attitude toward time to the attitude of the 
modern civilized individual will make more convincing the 
statements in the foregoing paragraphs. 

In common with the animals, man has always been gov- 
erned in his behavior by the presence or absence of light. 
The period of sunlight is, therefore, always a period of 
interest to him. In this connection it may be noted that 
the earliest ideas of a day coincide not with our present idea 


of a twenty-four hour period, but with the period of day- 
light. The early Hebrew records say, as rendered in the 
English translation, that the morning and the evening were 
the first day. Nilsson, commenting on this matter, writes 
as follows : 

For primitive man the day is the simplest and most obvious 
unit of time. The variations of day and night, light and dark- 
ness, sleeping and waking penetrate at least as deeply into life 
as the changes following upon the course of the year, such as heat 
and cold, drought and rainy seasons, periods of famine and plenty. 
But for the primitive intellect the year is a very long period, and 
it is only with difficulty and at a later stage that it can be con- 
ceived and surveyed as a whole. Day and night, on the other 
hand, are short units which immediately become obvious. Their 
fusion into a single unit, the day of 24 hours, did not take place 
until later, for this unit as we employ it is abstract and numer- 
ical : the primitive intellect proceeds upon immediate perceptions 
and regards day and night separately. 1 

Within the daylight period there were early recognized by 
primitive man the larger subdivisions which he distinguished 
even as we do in modern life by the names "morning," 
"noon," and "evening." These subdivisions were, of 
course, closely related to his observations of the sun and its 
movements; hence the practice which is common among 
all primitive peoples of referring to the position of the sun 
when they want to indicate subdivisions of the day. 

Here again we may borrow from Nilsson : 

For the indication of a point of time within the day the reference 
to the course of the sun is the means that lies nearest to hand, and 
the indication can indeed be given quite concretely by means of a 
gesture in the direction of the heavens. This language of signs 
is especially common in Africa. The Cross River natives of 

1 NILSSON, MARTIN P. Primitive Time-Reckoning, pp. 5-6 ; Oxford 
University Press, 1920. 


Southern Nigeria indicate the time by pointing to the position in 
the heavens which the sun occupies at that time of the day. When 
someone asked a Swahili what time it was, he answered, "Look 
at the sun/' although this tribe knew other ways of indicating 
time. The Wagogo in order to show the time of day indicate 
with the hand the position of the sun in the heavens. In Loango 
the people indicate the time satisfactorily enough from the motion 
of the sun, in divisions of two hours, by dividing the vault of the 
sky with outstretched arm, often using both arms as indicators. 
Moreover, most peoples have descriptive expressions for parts of 
the day, as for instance, the inhabitants of the Lower Congo, the 
Masia of East Africa, who estimate the time of day from the posi- 
tion of the sun, and the Hottentots, who express with certainty 
and clearness both points and duration of time by referring to 
the position of the sun. In Dahomey the natives tell the hours 
by means of the sun ; they say that the sun is here or there, in 
order to give the time of day. The Caffres are able to give the 
exact time of day by pointing with outstretched arm to the spot 
at which the sun appears at the time they wish to indicate. So, 
for example, when the Caffre wishes to show that he will come at 
two o'clock in the afternoon of the next day, he will say, " I will be 
here tomorrow when the sun is there," pointing to the position 
occupied by the sun at 2 P.M. 1 

Primitive man noticed also, as soon as his attention was 
drawn to parts of the day, various facts which were concrete 
enough to appeal to his senses and at the same time so regular 
in their recurrence as to serve gradually as substitutes for 
direct observations of the position of the sun. He noticed 
especially the movements of animals. 

Nilsson's examples are of interest in this connection. He 
says : 

The phenomena of Nature afford little basis for the naming of 
the times of day, since there is hardly one of them which recurs 
regularly every day at a definite time, with the exception of cock- 

1 NILSSON, MARTIN P. op. cit., pp. 17-18. 


crow, which is in great favor as an indication of the time before 
sunrise. Other exceptional cases are such names as that men- 
tioned for the Society Islands, " the stirring of the flies " ; one given 
for the Mahakam Kay an of Borneo, tiling (a cricket which is only 
to be heard at sunset) duan (to sing) ; a couple of expressions of the 
Wadschagga, " the cry of the partridge " in the evening, " the turn- 
ing of the smoke down the mountain " ; and one of the Nandi, " the 
elephants have gone to water." But a people which devotes itself 
to cattle-rearing or to agriculture may borrow from its regular 
daily occupations expressions for the times of day. Thus the 
Mahakam Kay an, besides the above-mentioned name for late 
afternoon and the term for noon (beluwa dow, "half-day"), have 
an expression for about 4 P.M. dow uli, i.e., "the time of the 
home-coming from work in the fields." The Javanese are strongly 
influenced by civilization and have, especially for astronological 
purposes, a fully developed chronological system; not seldom, 
however, the times of day are given in relation to the rural labour. 
So they say, " when the buffalo is sent to the pastures," " when the 
buffalo is brought back from the pastures," or is " housed," etc. ; 
but for the time of the occurrence of any event the position of the 
sun is usually indicated. 1 

The subdivisions of the day must have been paralleled 
very early by subdivisions of the night. The earliest records 
which we have of civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, 
and China show that man had advanced far in his observa- 
tions of the night sky. He had mapped out the constella- 
tions, fitting them to the weird conjectures of his imagination 
and naming them from the animal forms which were familiar 
to him. He had noticed the wandering stars which by one 
name or another he designated as planets. He had become 
well acquainted with the movements of the moon and with 
its waxings and wanings. 

How intimately these observations of the heavenly bodies 
were coupled with men's thinking about themselves is 

1 NILSSON, MARTIN P. op. tit., pp. 30-31. 


indicated by the body of superstition which accompanied 
all these early beginnings of astronomical science. The 
relation of the stars to human life was not thought of as a 
matter of vague chronological coincidence but as a real and 
causal fact. The planets were raised to the level of deities 
and we still record the religion of our ancestors in our seven- 
day week and in the designations which we employ when we 
name the days. Saturn's day and the Sun's day and the 
Moon's day are readily recognizable from the modern English 
forms of their names. The other four days of the week bear 
the names of Teutonic deities. Tuesday as the day of 
Mars is difficult to recognize because the name of Tuv, the 
German God of War, has been substituted for the name of 
Mars. In like fashion the other days of the week belonged 
to Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus, and have come down to us 
bearing the names of Woden, Thor, and Fria. 

The week, which marks off a period less directly observable 
than the day, is a purely conventional span of time. It was 
adopted by man because he wanted to do equal honor to 
each of his seven major deities. To each of these he gave a 
day set apart for special worship. To each god he at- 
tributed control over a certain group of human relations. 
What could be more natural than that he should relate the 
success or failure of the enterprises upon which he entered to 
the favor or displeasure of the particular deity having control 
over this relation. Should one go to war on the day assigned 
to the goddess of beauty and love? Certainly not. The 
result of such reasoning is that even civilized men who have 
long outgrown astrology prefer not to begin any large enter- 
prises on Friday. 

There are parts of the world quite untouched by the 
ancient mythology which accounts for our week of seven 
days. One can find in the Congo region of Africa to-day 
tribes which determine their short cycles of days on grounds 


wholly different from those which governed the Babylonians 
from whom we derive our week of seven days. For these 
tribes the market days are significant and the market privi- 
leges are shared by neighboring villages. The market day 
for a given village comes in regular rotation every fourth day. 
The week is therefore four days long. 

The market week appears in other parts of the world as 
a period of greater or less length but always coupled with the 
idea that dominates our week, namely, a recurring day of 
rest. Nilsson makes the following statement about one 
case of this type : 

In ancient Mexico a market was held every fifth day at every 
important place, just as in Africa on different days in neighboring 
districts ; the day was a rest-day, and with the market, games and 
amusements were associated. This five-day market- week appears 
also in other parts of Central America. The Muysca of Bogota 
in Columbia, on the other hand, held markets every third, and 
the Inca peoples every tenth, day, when the country-folk ceased 
from labour, assembled in the towns, and engaged in traffic and 
games. These three- and ten-day periods are said to be brought 
into connection with the month; if this statement be correct, 
they are not continuous periods, and the market-day must some- 
times have been pushed out of place in order to secure the agree- 
ment with the moon; but the certainty cannot be ascertained. 1 

The natural units for periods of time longer than the day 
or week are the month and year. At first primitive man 
made no effort to combine these two ideas. His attitude 
can be understood when one thinks of our common practice 
of neglecting altogether the relation of the week to either 
the month or year. The considerations which have deter- 
mined the length of the month are wholly different from the 
religious considerations which gave us the seven-day week. 
So it was with primitive man's treatment of the month and 

1 NILSSON, MARTIN P. op. cit., pp. 328-329. 


year. For him the year was at first the cycle of the seasons 
and the month was the cycle of the moon. When he wanted 
to refer with exactness to a relatively short span of time, he 
said it was one or two or more moons ago. When he wanted 
to cover longer periods, he spoke of it as two winters or two 
rainy seasons ago. Either form of expression was precise 
enough for his purposes and both were used freely and with- 
out thought of conflict. 

It is a fact of human experience, however, that sooner or 
later two modes of thinking which originate separately but 
touch the same phases of life and conduct will begin to come 
together through the purely subjective relations into which 
they are brought. The year as a unit of time and the 
month as a unit of time will sooner or later be thought of in 
relation to each other. When that association is set up, the 
making of a calendar will follow in response to a human 

The calendar is not an objective fact, but a device for con- 
trolling conduct and thinking. The history of the calendar 
is a history of successive efforts to bring human experience 
into a form which will include in a single self-consistent 
statement the complex observations which have been made 
on the recurrence of the seasons and on the movements of the 

The earliest efforts to make the calendar were dominated 
by attention to the moon. Indeed, there are savage peoples 
to-day with whom the year is a somewhat indefinite unit, 
while the moon and its phases are so evident and impressive 
that the calendar is for these tribes an enumeration of moons. 

For the Babylonian priests, who had gained very detailed 
information of the heavenly bodies, the adjustment between 
the year and the month was simplified by the assumptions 
that the year contains 360 days and that the cycle of the 
moon is exactly 30 days. The priests must have known that 


these figures were not exact, but they adopted them as close 
approximations. A correction was introduced, as it is to-day 
in the Jewish calendar, by interpolating an additional month 
at such intervals as were necessary to correct the error. 
The psychological motive for assuming that the days of the 
year and month could be expressed in round numbers was 
the same as the modern motive for substituting round num- 
bers for irregular numbers, which are difficult to manipulate 
in calculations. 

The method of approximating the year in 360 days and of 
subdividing the 360 into twelve equal parts has been handed 
down to us in a number of very important institutions. Our 
method of dealing with circles is to divide them into 360 
degrees. This is the result of a Babylonian subdivision of 
the circle which was first drawn to represent the yearly 
path of the sun. Another practice which has come to us 
from Mesopotamia is that of dividing not only our year but 
also our clock face into twelve subdivisions. 

In contrast with the Babylonians, the Egyptians, who were 
also well advanced in astronomical knowledge, held more 
nearly to the observed facts and gave their year 365 days. 
The months were evidently less significant for them, for they 
made an annual correction, keeping the year nearly right 
and allowing the moons to fit into the observed year as best 
they could. 

The Jewish calendar consists of months which are made up 
alternately of 29 and 30 days with additional months in- 
serted from time to time so that in a cycle of 19 years there 
are 7 additional months inserted. The year varies in the 
extreme from 353 to 385 days. We see in this practice, which 
closely approximates that adopted by the Greeks in the time 
of Solon, an effort to hold to the lunar unit as closely as 
possible. Since this unit is approximately 29 days, the 
plan of alternating from 29 to 30 days in succeeding months 


makes an immediate correction for the moon and leaves the 
longer unit, the year, to adjust itself with less exactness and 
over long periods of time. 

The confusion in seasons which results from any calendar 
which centers attention on the moon has led in the long run 
to the adoption of the Egyptian method of neglecting the 
moons and holding to the unit of a year. The Julian 
calendar and the Gregorian calendar are year calendars 
rather than month calendars. 

One fact of large significance for the student of civiliza- 
tion is the fact that the calendar is the work of kings and 
popes. There is no need of a pope to mark off the day; 
that is a natural fact so direct in its sensory impressiveness 
that it requires no authority to bring it to the attention of 
men. The moon's phases, too, are obvious and constitute the 
basis for a natural grouping of days into larger units of time. 
The year is less obvious because it requires a long span of 
memory, and the number of days requires a high develop- 
ment of the power to enumerate. The year will, therefore, 
at first be less likely to receive attention than the month. 
In the calendars based on the moon's phases we see, therefore, 
the natural tendency to follow the obvious. As society 
becomes more complex and its relations take on larger range, 
the immediate and easily seen facts become less and less 
dominant. It is then that some authoritative sponsor of 
the larger interests of the group steps in and decides by edict 
how the group shall think. The Greek calendar was ad- 
justed by the wisdom of Solon; the Roman calendar was 
adjusted by the civil power of Julius Caesar, and later by the 
ecclesiastical power of Pope Gregory. In each of these cases 
we see the social group expressing itself and determining the 
way in which the individual is to think and act. 

To be sure the individual may continue to harbor indi- 
vidual notions even after the group has spoken. The phases 


of the moon look important to modern civilized man. Even 
if they are not to determine his calendar, he may consider 
privately whether it is better to see the new moon over his 
right or left shoulder. He may try to decide whether there 
is to be much or little rain during the days following a new 
moon by the apparent position of the opening of the bowl. 
He may do his planting according to the phases of the moon 
as his remote ancestors did and in spite of the demands of 
the seasons. All these private modes of thought and action 
are permitted to anyone ; but when a man meets his neigh- 
bor and agrees to complete a contract or pay a debt on the 
first day of March, he will have to give up thinking about 
the moon and adopt the device of Pope Gregory. The best 
that he can do to escape the rules of group thinking in such 
a case is to secure a few days of grace according to an- 
other social convention. 

Turning from the fact that man devised a system for de- 
fining large units of time, we may consider how man im- 
proved the means which nature provided him of subdividing 
the day into lesser parts. 

Here again we find an admixture of nature and sheer 
convention. Let us ask how many parts the day has and we 
find no answer in nature. The day is continuous. As was 
pointed out in an introductory paragraph, primitive man 
began with a gross division, but that did not suffice, especially 
when the demands for social cooperation began to require 
great precision. Suppose that my neighbor asks me to 
meet him somewhere and says he will be there to-morrow 
morning. That is not exact enough to satisfy me ; I shall 
grow impatient waiting. 

How primitive man approached the problem of a more 
detailed subdivision of the day, we know. He noted the 
length of shadows. He set up a staff and marked the 
movement of the shadow with a semicircle of stones. He 


soon discovered the disconcerting fact that the shadow va- 
ried in length and direction of movement with the changing 
seasons. Nevertheless, he held to his shadow because it 
made it possible for him to subdivide his day. 

By the time we come to Babylonian history, we find that 
men had decided to divide the day, which meant the period 
of daylight during which their sundials could be observed, 
into twelve hours. The subdivision of circles into twelve 
parts was a familiar practice with the Babylonian priests, 
but a similar subdivision is not at all natural so far as the 
day is concerned. There might have been ten hours in the 
day. Indeed, during the French Revolution the edict was 
given that the day be divided into ten hours. So fixed had 
become the habit, however, of thinking in terms of twelve 
hours, that watchmakers and clockmakers had to put two 
dials on their timepieces, one with the ten-hour division to 
conform to the edict and another inside of this marked with 
the conventional twelve divisions which people had learned 
and understood. Twelve hours seem to us natural now 
because of our training, but the convention might have been 
otherwise if the Babylonian priests had been of the mind of 
the French revolutionists. 

Sundials have a great many shortcomings. The projection 
of a shadow on a flat surface does not give equal spacing for 
equal lengths of time. The effort was made to meet this 
difficulty by casting the shadow on the inner concave surface 
of a hemispherical bowl which was the small counterpart of 
the larger hemisphere through which the sun travels. Also 
the effort was made to meet the difficulty by making the 
dial on which the shadow was cast very large. But when 
everything possible had been done, the sundial served only 
under highly restricted conditions. 

Man found it necessary, therefore, to resort ultimately to 
certain mechanical means, and in so doing he gave up entirely 


dependence on shadows and astronomical observations and 
imposed on the natural day a series of subdivisions which he 
could control at will. The first of the mechanical devices 
which he employed was the water clock. 

A series of descriptions of water clocks employed by 
various peoples is given by F. A. Seely of the United States 
Patent Office in the following paragraphs : 

If, taking our lives in our hands, we could step on board a 
Malay proa, we should see floating in a bucket of water a cocoanut 
shell having a small perforation, through which the water by 
slow degrees finds its way into the interior. This orifice is so 
proportioned that the shell will fill and sink in an hour, when the 
man on watch calls the time and sets it afloat again. This device 
of a barbarous, unprogressive people, so thoroughly rude in itself, 
I conceive to be the rudest that search of any length can bring to 
light. It is in all aspects rudimentary. One can scarcely conceive 
of anything back of it but the play of children, and, as a starting 
point for this history, it is much more satisfactory than what is 
disclosed in the polished ages of Greece. There is nothing in its 
structure, if we were to consider that only, to prevent it from 
being a survival of an age long antecedent to the use of metal. 
The protolithic age might have originated it if we can conceive 
that protolithic man could have had use for it. 

Leaving our piratical friends, to whom we are so much indebted, 
and passing to their not remote neighbors in Northern India, we 
find the rude cocoanut shell developed into a copper bowl. Its 
operation is the same, but the attendant, who stands by and 
watches the moment of its sinking, now strikes the hour on the 
resonant metal. It is easy to see in fact it would be difficult to 
doubt that this has been an improvement on an apparatus like 
that of the Malay and the natural result of improvements in other 
arts, eminently that of metal-working. It is more enduring, 
more perfectly accomplishes its purpose, and is in the precise di- 
rection that improvement on the ruder appliance might be expected 
to pursue. 

Passing from Southern Asia to a people geographically remote, 


I next observe the water clock in use up to this day in China. 
We find the metal vessel with its minute perforation as before, 
but it has undergone a radical change in respect to its manner of 
use. It is now filled and the water flows from it in drops. Ob- 
viously enough the flight of time might be indicated by merely 
observing when the vessel has emptied itself, and then re-filling 
it, which, as will presently appear, was exactly the simplest Greek 
and Roman clepsydra and differs in no mechanical respect from 
the ordinary sand-glass. 

But in the days when the Chinese were a progressive people 
and developed inventions for which Europe had many centuries 
to wait, this water clock advanced far beyond the crude thing we 
have been considering. It would seem that the problem was to 
increase its usefulness by subdividing the unreasonably long in- 
tervals required for the complete emptying of the vessel. If this 
was done by marking graduations on the inside of the vessel and 
so noting the decline of the level, the difference in its rate could 
not fail quickly to make itself manifest. The solution of this 
problem, not obvious at first, was found in so arranging the vessel 
that it should discharge into another, where the indication would 
be read in the rise of the surface, and contriving to hold the water 
in the upper vessel at a constant level. This was done by em- 
ploying a third source, from which there was a constant flow into 
the first equal to its discharge. As the head in the middle vessel 
is thus maintained constant, the rise in the lowest is made uniform. 
Another radical improvement enhancing the practical utility of 
the device was the arrangement of a float on the surface of the water 
in the lowest vessel. Upon this was an indicator or hand which, 
in its rise, traveled over an adjacent scale, and so gave a time in- 
dication visible at a distance. 1 

Water clocks served many social purposes in the Greek 
and Roman civilizations, some of which are recorded for us in 
the literature of those peoples. Again we may quote from 
Seely : 

1 SEELY, F. A. "The Development of Time-keeping in Greece and 
Rome/' American Anthropologist, I (1888), pp. 25-50. 


If the increasing burden and tediousness of litigation led to the 
enactment of a statute restricting and apportioning the time of 
speakers in the courts, and providing this means for its regulation, 
it is easy to see that the use of such means must become at once 
familiar. I have found no trace of such enactments, but that 
strict ordinances existed there is no doubt. We know that the 
time of speakers was carefully proportioned to the importance of 
the case ; and trials of importance enough to have the time ap- 
portioned were known as Trpbs vScop while those of trifling im- 
portance, in which perhaps no lawyer appeared, were known as 
avev vSaros, two terms which may be freely rendered wet and dry, 
the dry case being as it happens most quickly disposed of. In a 
case of great moment to the state, involving a charge of faithless- 
ness in an embassy, each party was allowed 10 amphorae, or 
about 50 gallons of water. Nothing, however, seems to be known 
of the actual length of time indicated by this quantity of water. 
A passage in Aristotle gives some idea of the form of the clep- 
sydra as commonly used ; it was a spherical bottle with its minute 
opening at the bottom and a short neck at the top into which the 
water was poured. The running out of the water at the bottom 
could be stopped by closing this neck. In using the word bottle, 
I do not mean to imply that this clepsydra was of glass. Glass 
vessels of a suitable size could not be made at that period. We 
find Demosthenes charging his opponent with talking . . . . "in 
my water"; and on another occasion he shows the value he at- 
tached to the time allotted to him by turning to the officer, when 
interrupted, with a peremptory .... "You there! Stop the 
water!'' 1 

A final quotation from Seely shows how Plautus satirized 
the water clocks which had become common in Rome. 

When I was young, no time-piece Rome supplied, 
But every fellow had his own inside ; 
A trusty horologe, that rain or shine 
Ne'er failed to warn him of the hour to dine. 

1 SEELY, F. A. op. tit., pp. 37-38. 


Then sturdy Romans sauntered through the Forum, 

Fat, hale, content ; for trouble ne'er came o'er them. 

But now these cursed dials show their faces 

All over Rome, in streets and public places ; 

And men, to know the hour, the cold stone question, 

That has no heart, no stomach, no digestion. 

They watch the creeping shadows daily thinner 

Shadows themselves, impatient for their dinner. 

Give me the good old time-piece, if you please, 

Confound the villain that invented these ! 1 

The water clock was paralleled in its later history by 
another mechanical device which is said to have been in- 
vented in Alexandria about the middle of the third century 
before Christ, the hourglass. This instrument is sufficiently 
familiar to require no description here. 

Still other timing devices have been used. The Chinese 
and Japanese use slow-burning ropes knotted at regular 
intervals or cylinders of glue and sawdust. The Eskimos 
watch the burning oil in their lamps, and the taper at many 
an altar records the vigil of the worshiper. 

The era of strictly mechanical time measurement came 
with the inventions of the medieval monks. How the 
monks happened to be factors in this history is told by a 
popular writer from whom the following paragraphs may be 
quoted : 

"It is quite possible," writes M. Gubelin Breitschmidt, the 
younger, an eminent horologist of Lucerne, Switzerland, "that a 
large number of the technical inventions of antiquity were lost 
during the migrations of the barbarians and under the chaotic 
conditions prevailing during the first thousand years of Chris- 
tianity, but the most perfect surviving instrument for measuring 
time was the water clock, known as the clepsydra, which was 
able to maintain its supremacy long after the appearance of the 

1 SEELY, F. A. op. cit., p. 42. 


wholly mechanical clock, just as the beautiful manuscripts of the 
artist monks and laymen were favored by the cultured classes long 
after the invention of the movable types for printing. 

"The spread of Christianity throughout Europe caused the 
foundation of many religious communities, and the severe rules 
by which they were governed fixing the hours of prayer, labor, 
and refreshment forced their members to seek instruments by 
which to measure time. In the year 605, a bull of Pope Sabinianus 
decreed that all bells be rung seven times in the twenty-four hours, 
at fixed moments and regularly, and these fixed times became 
known as the seven canonical hours. The sound of the bells pene- 
trated and came to regulate not only the life of the religious 
bodies but also that of the secular people who lived outside 
the walls of the monasteries. Oil-lamps, candles, hour-glasses, 
prayers and for those who had the means of buying them 
clepsydrae served as chronometers for the brotherhoods ; so that 
one can easily imagine that many a monk sought to improve 
these instruments. But as yet, no one had found means to regu- 
late the wheel-system of a movement. In the best instruments 
of this period, water supplied the motive power and served as well 
to regulate the action/ 7 

There is a general belief that Gerbert, the monk, who was the 
most accomplished scholar of his age, and who later became Pope 
Sylvester II, was the one who first took the important step of 
producing a real clock, and that this occurred near the close of 
the tenth century or to be more exact, about 990 A.D. This 
period was one of densest superstition, and expectancy of the end 
of the world was in the air, since many people had fixed upon the 
year 1000 A.D. as the date of that cataclysmic event. 

It is to the monks in their cloisters that we chiefly owe the 
preservation of learning through the "dark ages" and from the 
monks, for the most part, came such progress of science and in- 
vention as was made. If Gerbert, the monk, after patient tink- 
ering with wheels and weights in his stone- walled workshop, 
really achieved some form of the clock-action as we know it, he 
was one of the great benefactors of the human race. Still, it is 


not impossible that his device may only have been a more remark- 
able application of the clepsydra principle. 1 

The crowning discovery, which provided the mechanical 
regulator for timing instruments, was the discovery made by 
Galileo in 1581. The description of this discovery as given 
by Brearley is as follows : 

In 1581, this youth of seventeen stood in the cathedral of Pisa. 
Close at hand, a lamp suspended by a long chain swung lazily in 
the air currents. There was nothing unusual in such a sight. 
Millions of other eyes had seen other suspended objects going 
through exactly this motion and had not given the sight a second 
thought. At this moment, however, a great discovery of far- 
reaching application one which was to revolutionize clock con- 
struction hung waiting in the air. Young Galileo took notice. 

The lamp swung to and fro, to and fro. Sometimes it moved 
but slightly. Again, as a stronger breeze blew through the great 
drafty structure, it swung in a considerable arc, but always and 
this was the point which impressed itself upon the Italian lad 
the swing was accomplished in exactly the same time. When it 
moved a short distance, it moved slowly; the farther it moved, 
the faster became the motion ; in its arc it moved more swiftly, 
accomplishing the long swing in the same time as it did the short 
one. In order to make sure of this fact, Galileo is said to have 
timed the swinging lamp by counting the beating of his pulse. 2 

It is not necessary for the purposes of our discussion to 
follow further the inventions by which our modern time- 
pieces have been perfected. The fact in which the psychol- 
ogy of social institutions is interested is that man has success- 
fully divided the day into small units and has developed 
mechanisms which are common enough to make it possible 
for everyone to be supplied with exact information as to 
the conventional hour. 

1 BREARLEY, HARRY C. Time-Telling through the Ages, pp. 71-73 ; Double- 
day, Page & Co., 1919. 2 Ibid., p. 89. 


Not only so, but by agreements, national and inter- 
national, the whole world has been brought under a series of 
conventions which make it possible to compare the time of 
any given locality with that of any other locality. As a 
result, activities in different parts of the world can be made 
to correspond exactly in time even though they occur at 
hours that are wholly different in name. In order that this 
vast social system may be kept in perfect accord and that 
the infinitely numerous mechanical devices now used in all 
parts of the world for measuring time may be constantly 
corrected so as to insure exact correspondence, the support 
and authority of governments have been enlisted. Elabo- 
rate observations are made at national observatories and the 
records are interchanged. Signals are sent at frequent 
intervals to all parts of the world. 

Perhaps the most impressive fact for the purposes of our 
discussion is that a great many people have been set aside to 
perform the services which were outlined in the last para- 
graph. There are, first of all, the makers of timepieces. 
Then there are the official observers who regulate the 
standard chronometers and provide for the distribution of 
standard signals. There are hosts of persons whose duty 
it is to watch other people and see to it that their activities 
are executed on time. All of these are society's agents in 
producing and maintaining the habits of punctuality. 

One hardly knows whether to speak of the uses to which 
time measurements are put in science as by-products of the 
social activities which we have been discussing or as sources 
of the social system. Certain it is that the demand for 
exact time measurements came first out of man's interest in 
himself. The earliest makers of clocks were not students of 
nature, they were leaders of religious cults. In other ages 
they were practical mariners seeking to find a path for human 
enterprise where there were no guides but the stars. 


Out of the original practical and religious interests, there 
have grown bodies of knowledge and technical devices which 
have been of great service to man in helping him to master 
the forces of nature that were in no way connected with 
his original observations of time. Because of the knowl- 
edge which we have of time intervals, it is possible to-day to 
measure among other facts of physical nature the velocity 
of movements and thus to master various forces which we 
could not control if we were not supplied with methods of 
exact measurement of time. 

There is some danger that the extended review of historical 
facts which has filled the foregoing pages will obscure the 
psychological lessons which these facts are intended to teach. 
A water clock is so material a fact and a calendar is so far 
removed from the sense impressions and memory images 
which constitute the subject matter of books on psychology 
that the reader may feel that the psychology of social institu- 
tions deals very largely with institutions and very little 
with mental processes. 

If such is the case, the difficulty is to be traced to the 
natural disposition to think of mental life in purely subjective 
terms. The modern man feels the urge to be prompt ; this 
urge he recognizes as a mental fact. He cannot discover by 
looking into his own mind where the urge came from. He 
is disposed therefore to think of it as a natural disposition 
which he acquired through inheritance or else he thinks of 
it as resulting from a demand imposed upon him by indus- 
trial organization, that is, by a social system outside of his 
mind and consequently wholly unpsychological in character. 
When he reads the historical narrative and discovers that 
there were once sundials and water clocks, his mind stops 
at these material facts and is satisfied to find in them the 
ultimate causes of his own subjective traits. 

It must by some means be brought vividly to the think- 


ing of the reader that the sundial is itself a product of human 
mental effort. A sundial is not a fact of the physical world, 
nor a fact of the animal world. The sundial uses physical 
materials but these physical materials do not explain it. 
Back of the sundial there are ideas and human desires and 
long ages of cooperative experimentation. The cause of the 
sundial is human intelligence. 

Furthermore, the causal relation between intelligence and 
the sundial is not to be described as a single fact. A long 
accumulation of psychological influences must be thought of 
when one seeks to discover the cause of the sundial. The 
minds of many men have contributed to every aspect of the 
completed device. Each contributing mind has passed 
through some act of observation and reaction and has helped 
by this process to achieve the final result. The processes 
of mind through which the successive inventors have 
passed are no less real occurrences in the world than are the 
movements of the material particles which have been 
brought together in the construction of the sundial. With- 
out the successive mental acts there would never have been 
any such end product as there is. The rea-son why sundials 
exist is that in the minds of men process after process has 
taken place and each process has recorded itself in grad- 
ual improvements which have ultimately resulted in the 
aggregate in the finished sundial. 

The long series of mental processes which are implied in 
the historical sketches given in the early pages of this and 
preceding chapters are so much more significant to the world 
than the mental processes of a single individual that it is 
almost unbelievable that the vividness and immediacy of 
individual mental phenomena should have so long directed 
the course of the science of psychology. No one doubts 
the reality of a visual impression of an individual who sees 
the sun and yet there has been no adequate recognition in 


psychology of the time consciousness which has been built 
up through generations of experience. 

The psychology of social institutions does not, however, 
merely turn its face backward and look for the causes of the 
institutions which the mind of man has evolved. Every 
institution is a cause of future happenings. What men 
have invested in their inventions their children experi- 
ence. Institutions arose out of the cooperation of minds 
and have become the vehicles which carry over the influ- 
ences of mind to other personalities. By means of institu- 
tions it has become possible for one group of minds to touch 
and direct the experiences of minds remote in time and 
space. The human geniuses who discovered the planets 
and gave their names to the days of the week have long 
been forgotten. We have no knowledge of their personalities 
except through the institutions which they created. Their 
individual nervous systems and the records of their other 
deeds were long since utterly lost, but future generations will 
be trained to use the words which they coined and to base their 
conduct on the orderly arrangements which they planned. 

There is a breadth and scope in the psychology of social 
institutions which is entirely lacking in any system of indi- 
vidual psychology. If one would understand the place of 
mind in the world, one must master this broader view of 
mental phenomena. 

In the applications of psychology as well as in its formula- 
tion of fundamental explanations the broader view is highly 
productive. If one thinks of education, for example, and 
attempts to derive a formula for the guidance of the teacher, 
one finds little that is helpful in a mere recital of individual 
traits. Even the facts of individual development are com- 
paratively meager in furnishing a basis for a program of 
instruction. On the other hand, a study of social institutions 
throws a flood of light on the processes which the schools 


are engaged in carrying on. Viewed in the light of the psy- 
chology of social institutions, education is seen to be an 
effort to fit the individual into the general plan of social 
cooperation. Education seeks to give the individual as 
much as possible of the organized experiences which genera- 
tions of minds have put together. Education seeks to drill 
the individual in the use of those instruments of adaptation 
which have been perfected by earlier generations. Educa- 
tion aims to make it possible for the individual to master 
the methods of recording his own contributions to the 
intellectual wealth of the world. 

What is true of general education is true in detail of every 
line of human endeavor. If one would perfect oneself in 
art, one must first take advantage of what the race has 
achieved. If nations would be well governed, they must 
find their place in the current of human agreements and 
conventions which have substituted order for individual 
combat. If industry is to progress, the past must supply 
the stepping stones to more perfect mechanical devices. 

It is such conclusions as these that the detailed examina- 
tions of one social institution after another are intended to 
support. It is something of a handicap to thinking that 
social and mental evolution must thus be treated as though 
each of the contributing institutions were an isolated fact. 
If it were possible to present at one stroke the effects on 
human life of the invention of tools, of the evolution of com- 
merce, and of the cultivation of the virtue of promptness, and 
if it were possible to show at the same time the effect on 
human nature of all the other social institutions, the task of 
the psychology of social institutions would be easier. As 
it is we must think now of one institution, now of another, 
and hope that each successive discussion will contribute to 
the conviction that individual mental life is what it is 
by virtue of powerful social influences. 



The effect on human thought and conduct of the evolu- 
tion of number systems and time measurements is to render 
all human adaptations increasingly precise. The highest 
manifestations of this tendency appear in modern science 
where exactness of thought and comparison are recognized 
as absolutely essential. When the chemist and the physicist 
boast that theirs are mathematical sciences and when the 
biologists and students of human nature begin to collect 
and tabulate careful measurements rather than rely on gen- 
eral observations, we see the results of a long line of human 
evolution in which counting and minute analyses have united 
to change rough general thinking into detailed, precise views 
of the world. This line of progress would have been im- 
possible without one other system of devices, to the con- 
sideration of which we now turn, namely, weights and 

Weights and measures were in their earliest stages prac- 
tical devices. The constructive arts called for exact linear 
measure, and exchange called for measures of bulk and 
weight. The distances across land and sea were important 
to men in planning and carrying out their journeys and 

The Chaldeans seem to have made great progress in the 
invention of systems of measures. They seem also to have 
tried to unify all their measuring devices by adopting as 
the unit of weight a defined cubic volume of water. They 
also related their linear unit to fundamental astronomical 



determinations. The same is true of the Egyptians. But 
if ancient measuring systems had reached the stage of 
deliberate refinement, which is indicated by such statements, 
it is quite certain that the early centuries of European 
history were only slightly affected by these ancient sys- 
tems. The history of weights and measures in Europe must 
begin with an account of unscientific experimentation with 
practical standards of the most varied types and origins. 

There is an exhaustive discussion of the whole matter of 
weights and measures in one of the state papers of John 
Quincy Adams. In 1821, in response to a resolution of the 
Congress of the United States asking for a definition of the 
function imposed upon it by the clause of the Constitution 
which charges it with the duty of fixing the standard of 
weights and measures, Adams prepared as Secretary of 
State an elaborate document from which liberal quotations 
will be borrowed. 

Adams opens his report with certain speculations as to the 
origin of measures in the most remote beginnings of savage 
life. His speculations are based on the meanings of the 
words which are found in use everywhere in the world as 
names of the common units. After pointing out that 
savages in using animal skins to make clothing will naturally 
be forced to compare the dimensions of parts of their own 
bodies and the dimensions of the skins, and that these same 
savages in building shelters will use standards of measure 
derived from their heights and arm-lengths, Adams calls 
attention to the following interesting contrast : 

Itinerary measure, as it needs nothing more than the prolonga- 
tion or repetition of linear measure, would seem at the first view to 
be the same. Yet this is evidently not the progress of nature. 
As the want of it originates in a different stage of human existence 
it will not naturally occur to man, to use the same measure, or the 
same scale of proportions and numbers, to clothe his body, and to 


mark the distance of his walks. On the contrary, for the measure- 
ment of all objects which he can lift and handle, the fathom, the 
arm, the cubit, the hand's-breadth, the span, and the fingers, are 
the instruments proposed to him by nature ; while the pace and 
the foot are those which she gives him for the measurement of 
itinerary distance. These natural standards are never, in any 
stage of society, lost to individual man. There are probably few 
persons living who do not occasionally use their own arms, hands, 
and fingers, to measure objects which they handle, and their own 
pace to measure a distance upon the ground. 

Here then is a source of diversity, to the standards even of linear 
measure, flowing from the difference of the relations between 
man and physical nature. It would be as inconvenient and un- 
natural to the organization of the human body to measure a bow 
and arrow for instance, the first furniture of solitary man, by his 
foot or pace, as to measure the distance of a day's journey, or a 
morning's walk to the hunting ground, by his arm or hand. 

Measures of capacity are rendered necessary by the nature of 
fluids, which can be held together in definite quantities only by 
vessels of substance more compact than their own. They are 
also necessary for the admeasurement of those substances which 
nature produces in multitudes too great for numeration, and too 
minute for linear measure. Of this character are all the grains 
and seeds, which, from the time when man becomes a tiller of the 
ground, furnish the principal materials of his subsistence. But 
nature has not furnished him with the means of supplying this 
want in his own person. For this measure he is obliged to look 
abroad into the nature of things ; and his first measure of capacity 
will most probably be found in the egg of a large bird, the shell 
of a cetaceous fish, or the horn of a beast. The want of a common 
standard not being yet felt, these measures will be of various di- 
mensions; nor is it to be expected that the thought will ever 
occur to the man of nature, of establishing a proportion between 
his cubit and his cup, of graduating his pitcher by the size of his 
foot, or equalizing its parts by the number of his fingers. 1 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY Report of the Secretary of State upon Weights and 
Measures, p. 7; Gales and Scaton, 1821, 


The development of this natural system of measures 
shows a striking departure from that of the ordinary count- 
ing series which, as we have already seen, early adopts a 
decimal base. Adams explains as follows the reason for a 
base other than ten in the case of measures : 

The proportions of the human body, and of its members, are in 
other than decimal numbers. The first unit of measures, for the 
use of the hand, is the cubit, or extent from the tip of the elbow to 
the end of the middle finger; the motives for choosing which, 
are, that it presents more definite terminations at both ends than 
any of the other superior limbs, and gives a measure easily handled 
and carried about the person. By doubling this measure is given 
the ell, or arm, including the hand, and half the width of the body, 
to the middle of the breast ; and, by doubling that, the fathom, or 
extent from the extremity of one middle finger to that of the 
other, with expanded arms, an exact equivalent to the stature of 
man, or extension from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. 
For subdivisions and smaller measures, the span is found equal to 
half the cubit, the palm to one-third of the span, and the finger 
to one-fourth of the palm. The cubit is thus, for the mensuration 
of matter, naturally divided into 24 equal parts, with subdivisions 
of which 2, 3, and 4, are the factors ; while, for the mensuration of 
distance, the foot will be found at once equal to one-fifth of the 
pace, and one-sixth of the fathom. 1 

The fact that measures of weight and volume are at first 
quite distinct can be explained psychologically by the general 
principle which has been illustrated in all the foregoing 
paragraphs. Standards originate in concrete comparisons, 
not in ideas about the most systematic ways of making com- 
parisons. Weights and measures of length are in modern 
times classified together as instruments of precision because 
men have come to understand the meaning and importance 
of exact determination, and science teaches that all standards 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. cit., p. 8. 


can be reduced to the same fundamental concepts of matter 
and motion, but for primitive man seeking ready practical 
means of meeting certain pressing immediate needs, weights 
and volumes are wholly different facts. 
Adams discusses the matter as follows : 

The difference between the specific gravities of different sub- 
stances is so great, that it could not, for any length of time, escape 
observation; but nature has not furnished man, within him- 
self, with any standard for this mode of estimating equivalents. 
Specific gravity, as an object of mensuration, is in its nature pro- 
portional. It is not like measures of length and capacity, a com- 
parison between different definite portions of space, but a compari- 
son between different properties of matter. It is not the simple 
relation between the extension of one substance, and the exten- 
sion of another; but the complicated relation of extension and 
gravitation in one substance to the extension and gravitation of 
another. This distinction is of great and insuperable influence 
upon the principle of uniformity, as applicable to a system of 
weights and measures. Extension and gravitation neither have, 
nor admit of, one common standard. Diversity is the law of 
their nature, and the only uniformity which human ingenuity 
can establish between them is an uniformity of proportion, and 
not an uniformity of identity. 

The necessity for the use of weights is not in the organization 
of individual man. It is not essential even to the condition or 
the comforts of domestic society. It presupposes the discovery 
of the properties of the balance ; and originates in the exchanges 
of traffic, after the institution of civil society. It results from 
the experience that the comparison of the articles of exchange, 
which serve for the subsistence or the enjoyment of life, by their 
relative extension, is not sufficient as a criterion of their value. 
The first use of the balance, and of weights, implies two sub- 
stances, each of which is the test and the standard of the other. 
It is natural that these substances should be the articles the 
most essential to subsistence. They will be borrowed from the 
harvest and the vintage : they will be corn and wine. The dis- 


covery of the metals, and their extraction from the bowels of the 
earth, must, in the annals of human nature, be subsequent, but 
proximate, to the first use of weights ; and, when discovered, the 
only mode of ascertaining their definite quantities will be soon 
perceived to be their weight. That they should, themselves, 
immediately become the common standards of exchanges, or 
otherwise of value and of weights, is perfectly in the order of 
nature. 1 

Enough has been said in the foregoing quotations to make 
clear the reason why a universally accepted system of 
weights and measures has never been evolved even in modern 
civilization. There are so many different kinds of measures 
that it is not easy for the mind to bring all of them into a 
single system. The abstract notion of exactness which 
includes linear measures and weights is so far removed from 
the manifold concrete experiences which must be compared 
with the yardstick or weighed in the balance that civiliza- 
tion will for long periods be content with wholly diverse 
standards for the different types of exactness. Furthermore, 
the close relationship of some of the particular measures to 
the parts of one's own body will operate to delay the estab- 
lishment of purely conventional social standards. 

Adams writes on this aspect of the matter as follows : 

With civil society, too, originates the necessity for common and 
uniform standards of measures. Of the different measures of 
extension necessary for individual man, and for domestic society, 
although the want will be common to all, and frequently recurring, 
yet, the standards will not be uniform, either with reference to 
time or to persons. The standard of linear measure for each 
individual being in himself, those of no two individuals will be 
the same. At different times, the same individual will use dif- 
ferent measures, according to the several purposes for which 
they will be wanted. In domestic society, the measures adap- 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. tit., p. 10. 


table to the persons of the husband, of the wife, and of the chil- 
dren, are not the same ; nor will the idea of reducing them all to 
one common standard press itself upon their wants, until the 
multiplication of families gives rise to the intercourse, exchanges, 
and government, of civil society. Common standards will then 
be assumed from the person of some distinguished individual; 
but accidental circumstances, rather than any law of nature, will 
determine whether identity or proportion will be the character of 
their uniformity. If, pursuing the first and original dictate of 
nature, the cubit should be assumed as the standard of linear 
measure for the use of the hand, and the pace for the measure of 
motion, or linear measure upon earth, there will be two units of 
long measure ; one for the measure of matter, and another for the 
measure of motion. Nor will they be reducible to one ; because 
neither the cubit nor the pace is an aliquot part or a multiple of 
the other. But, should the discovery have been made, that the 
foot is at once an aliquot part of the pace, for the mensuration of 
motion, and of the ell and fathom, for the mensuration of matter, 
the foot will be made the common standard measure for both : 
and, thenceforth, there will be only one standard unit of long 
measure, and its uniformity will be that of identity. 

When weights and measures present themselves to the con- 
templation of the legislator, and call for the interposition of law, 
the first and most prominent idea which occurs to him is that of 
uniformity: his first object is to embody them into a system, and 
his first wish, to reduce them to one universal common standard. 
His purposes are uniformity, permanency, universality; one 
standard to be the same for all persons and all purposes, and to 
continue the same forever. These purposes, however, require 
powers which no legislator has hitherto been found to possess. 
The power of the legislator is limited by the extent of his territories, 
and the numbers of his people. His principle of universality, 
therefore, cannot be made, by the mere agency of his power, to 
extend beyond the inhabitants of his own possessions. The power 
of the legislator is limited over time. He is liable to change his 
own purposes. He is not infallible : he is liable to mistake the 
means of effecting his own objects. He is not immortal: his 


successor accedes to his power, with different views, different 
opinions, and perhaps different principles. The legislator has no 
power over the properties of matter. He cannot give a new 
constitution to nature. He cannot repeal her law of universal 
mutability. He cannot square the circle. He cannot reduce ex- 
tension and gravity to one common measure. He cannot divide 
or multiply the parts of the surface, the cube, or the sphere, by 
the uniform and exclusive number ten. The power of the legis- 
lator is limited over the will and actions of his subjects. His 
conflict with them is desperate, when he counteracts their settled 
habits, their established usages; their domestic and individual 
economy, their ignorance, their prejudices, and their wants : all 
which is unavoidable in the attempt radically to change, or to 
originate, a totally new system of weights and measures. 

In the origin of the different measures and weights, at different 
stages of man's individual and social existence ; in the different 
modes by which nature has bounded the extension of matter ; in 
the incommensurable properties of the straight and the curve line ; 
in the different properties of matter, number, extension, and 
gravity, of which measures and weights are the tests, nature has 
planted sources of diversity, which the legislator would in vain 
overlook, which he would in vain attempt to control. To these 
sources of diversity in the nature of things must be added all 
those arising from the nature and history of man. In the first 
use of weights and measures, neither universality nor permanency 
are essential to the uniformity of the standards. Every individ- 
ual may have standards of his own, and may change them as con- 
venience or humor may dictate. Even in civil society, it is not 
necessary, to the purposes of traffic, that the standards of the 
buyer and seller should be the same. It suffices, if the proportions 
between the standards of both parties are mutually understood. 
In the progress of society, the use of weights and measures having 
preceded legislation, if the families, descended from one, should, 
as they naturally may, have the same standards, other families 
will have others. Until regulated by law, their diversities will be 
numberless, their changes continual. 

These diversities are still further multiplied by the abuses 


incident to the poverty, imperfections, and deceptions, of human 
language. So arbitrary and so irrational is the dominion of usage 
over the speech of man, that, instead of appropriating a specific 
name to every distinct thing, he is impelled, by an irresistible 
propensity, sometimes to give different names to the same thing, 
but far more frequently to give the same name to different things. 
Weights and measures are, in their nature, relative. When man 
first borrows from his own person a standard measure of length, 
his first error is to give to the measure the name of the limb from 
which it is assumed. He calls the measure a cubit, a span, a hand, 
a finger, or a foot, improperly applying to it the name of those 
respective parts of his body. When he has discovered the prop- 
erties of the balance, he either confounds with it the name of the 
weight, which he puts in it to balance the article which he would 
measure, or he gives to the definite mass, which he assumes for 
his standard, the indefinite and general name of the weight. Such 
was the original meaning of the weight which we call a pound. 
But, as different families assume different masses of gravity for 
their unit of weight, the pound of one bears the same name, and is 
a very different thing from the pound of another. When nations 
fall into the use of different weights or measures for the estimation 
of different objects, they commit the still grosser mistake of calling 
several different weights or measures by the same name. And, 
when governments degrade themselves by debasing their coins, as 
unfortunately all governments have done, they add the crime of 
fraud to that of injustice, by retaining the name of things which 
they have destroyed or changed. 1 

Adams draws upon the Old Testament for confirmation 
of the various principles which he has enunciated. He writes 
as follows : 

In the law given from Sinai the law, not of a human legis- 
lator, but of God there are two precepts respecting weights 
and measures. The first, (Leviticus xix. 35, 36) "Ye shall do no 
unrighteousness in judgment, in mete-yard (measure of length), 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. cit., pp. 11-13, 


in weight, or in measure (of capacity). Just balances, just 
weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have." The second, 
(Deuteronomy xxv. 13, 14, 15) "Thou shalt not have in thy bag 
divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine 
house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have 
a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou 
have. 77 The weights and measures are prescribed as already 
existing and known, and were all probably the same as those of 
the Egyptians. The first of these injunctions is addressed in the 
plural to the whole nation, and the second in the singular to every 
individual. The first has reference to the standards, which were 
to be kept in the ark of the covenant, or the sanctuary ; and the 
second to the copies of them, kept by every family for their own 
use. The first, therefore, only commands that the standards 
should be just : and that, in all transactions, for which weights and 
measures might be used, the principle of righteousness should be 
observed. The second requires, that the copies of the standards 
used by individuals should be uniform, not divers ; and not only 
just, but perfect, with reference to the standards. 

The long measures were, the cubit, with its subdivisions of two 
spans, six palms or handbreadths, and twenty-four digits or fingers. 
It had no division in decimal parts, and was not employed for 
itinerary measure : that was reckoned by paces, Sabbath day's 
journeys, and day's journeys. The measures of capacity were, 
the ephah for the dry, and the hin for liquid measure ; the primi- 
tive standard from nature of which was an egg-shell ; six of these, 
constituted the log, a measure little less than our pint. The 
largest measure of capacity, the homer, was common both to 
liquid and dry substances ; and its contents nearly corresponded 
with our wine hogshead, and with the Winchester quarter. The 
intermediate measures were different, and differently subdivided. 
They combined the decimal and duodecimal divisions : the latter 
of which may, perhaps, have arisen from the accidental number of 
the tribes of Israel. Thus, in liquids, the bath was a tenth part 
of the homer, the hin a sixth part of the bath, and the log a twelfth 
part of the hin ; while, for dry measure, the ephah was a tenth 
part of the homer, the seah a third, and the omer a tenth part of 


the ephah, and the cab a sixth part of the seah. The weights and 
coins were, the shekel, of twenty gerahs; the maneh, which for 
weight was of sixty and in money of fifty shekels ; and the kinchar, 
or talent, of three thousand shekels in both. The ephah had also 
been formed by the process of cubing an Egyptian measure of 
length, called the ardob. The original weight of the shekel was the 
same as one-half of our avoirdupois ounce; the most ancient of 
weights traceable in human history. 

And thus the earliest and most venerable of historical records 
extant, in perfect coincidence with speculative theory, prove, 
that the natural standards of weights and measures are not the 
same ; that even the natural standards of cloth and of long meas- 
ure are two, both derived from the stature and proportions of 
man, but one from his hand and arm, the other from his leg and 
foot ; that the natural standards of measures of capacity and of 
weights are different from those of linear measure, and different 
from each other, the essential character of the weight being com- 
pact solidity, and that of the vessel bounded vacuity; that the 
natural standards of weights are two, one of which is the same 
with metallic money ; and that decimal arithmetic, as founded in 
nature, is peculiarly applicable to the standard units of weights 
and measures, but not to their subdivisions or fractional parts, 
nor to the objects of admeasurement and weight. 

With all these diversities, the only commands of the law for ob- 
serving uniformity were, that the weights and the measures should 
be just, perfect, and not divers, a great and a small. But this 
last prohibition was merely an ordinance against fraud. It was a 
precept to the individual, and not to the nation. It forbade the 
iniquitous practice of using a large weight or measure for buying, 
and a small one for selling the same article ; and, to remove the 
opportunity for temptation, it enjoined upon the individual not 
to have divers weights and measures, great and small, of the same 
denomination, in his bag when at market, or in his house when at 
home. But it was never understood to forbid that there should be 
measures of different dimensions bearing the same name : and 
it appears, from the sacred history, that there actually were three 
different measures called a cubit, of about the relative proportion 


of 17, 21, and 35, of our inches, to each other. They were dis- 
tinguished by the several denominations of the cubit of a man, the 
cubit of the king, and the cubit of the sanctuary. 1 

The effort to establish systems of weights and measures by 
the exercise of civil authority has always encountered great 
obstacles. The prescription of uniformity when it comes 
through the dictum of a ruler seems arbitrary. There is no 
such natural unit of extension and weight as there is of time. 
Measurements of space and weight, therefore, have to pass 
through long stages of trial before they can be established 
throughout a nation. 

We may draw examples of this long series of efforts to 
systematize measures by edict from the history of England 
which is reviewed in great detail by Adams. Writing of 
the earliest stages of England's history in this matter, he 
says : 

In England, from the earliest records of parliamentary history, 
the statute books are filled with ineffectual attempts of the legis- 
lature to establish uniformity. Of the origin of their weights and 
measures, the historical traces are faint and indistinct : but they 
have had, from time immemorial, the pound, ounce, foot, inch, 
and mile, derived from the Romans, and through them from the 
Greeks, and the yard, or girth, a measure of Saxon origin, derived, 
like those of the Hebrews and the Greeks, from the human body, 
but, as a natural standard, different from theirs, being taken not 
from the length of members, but from the circumference of the 
body. The yard of the Saxons evidently belongs to a primitive 
system of measures different from that of the Greeks, of which the 
foot, and from that of the Hebrews, Egyptians, and Antediluvians, 
of which the cubit was the standard. It affords, therefore, another 
demonstration, how invariably nature first points to the human 
body, and its proportions, for the original standards of linear 
measure. But the yard being for all purposes of use a measure 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. cit., pp. 15-16. 


corresponding with the ulna, or ell, of the Roman system, became, 
when superadded to it, a source of diversity, and an obstacle to 
uniformity in the system. Thfc yard, therefore, very soon after the 
Roman conquest, is said to have lost its original character of girth ; 
to have been adjusted as a standard by the arm of king Henry the 
First : and to have been found or made a multiple of the foot, 
thereby adapting it to the remainder of the system : and this may 
perhaps be the cause of the difference of the present English foot 
from that of the Romans, by whom, as a measure, it was intro- 
duced. The ell measure has, however, in England, retained its 
place as a standard for measuring cloth: but, in the ancient 
statutes, which for centuries after the conquest were enacted in the 
degenerate Latin of the age, the term ulna, or ell, is always used 
to designate the yard. Historical traditions allege that, a full 
century before the Conquest, a law of Edgar prescribed that there 
should be the same weights, and the same measures, throughout 
the realm; but that it was never observed. The system which 
had been introduced by the Romans, however uniform in its origin, 
must have undergone various changes in the different governments 
of the Saxon Heptarchy. When those kingdoms were united in 
one, it was natural that laws of uniformity should be prescribed 
by the prince ; and as natural that usages of diversity should be 
persisted in by the people. Canute the Dane, William the Con- 
queror, and Richard the First, princes among those of most exten- 
sive and commanding authority, are said to have made laws of 
the like import, and the same inefficacy. The Norman Conquest 
made no changes in any of the established weights and measures. 
The very words of a law of William the Conqueror are cited by 
modern writers on the English weights and measures; their im- 
port is : " We ordain and command that the weights and measures, 
throughout the realm, be as our worthy predecessors have estab- 
lished/ 7 i 

The way in which various measures are brought grad- 
ually into the same system is described by Adams in a brief 

1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. cit., pp. 21-22. 


review of an act adopted in the time of Henry III (1266). 
This act declares that : 

by the consent of the whole realm of England, the measure of the 
king was made ; that is to say : that an English penny, called a 
sterling round, and without any clipping, shall weigh thirty-two 
wheat corns in the midst of the ear, and twenty-pence do make an 
ounce, and twelve ounces one pound, and eight pound do make 
a gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine do make a London 
bushel, which is the eighth part of a quarter. 

Henry the Third was the eighth king of the Norman race ; and 
this statute was passed exactly two hundred years after the Con- 
quest. It is merely an exemplification, word for word, embracing 
several ordinances of his progenitors, kings of England; and it 
unfolds a system of uniformity for weights, coins, and measures 
of capacity, very ingeniously imagined, and skillfully combined. 

It shows, first, that the money weight was identical with the sil- 
ver coins ; and it establishes an uniformity of proportion between 
the money weight and the merchant's weight, exactly correspond- 
ing to that between the measure of wine and the measure of grain. 

It makes wheat and silver money, the two weights of the bal- 
ance, the natural tests and standards of each other; that is, it 
makes wheat the standard for the weight of silver money, and 
silver money the standard for the weight of wheat. 

It combines an uniformity of proportion between the weight and 
the measure of wheat and of wine ; so that the measure of wheat 
should at the same time be a certain weight of wheat and the meas- 
ure of wine at the same time a certain weight of wine, so that the 
article whether bought and sold by weight or by measure, the 
result was the same. To this, with regard to wheat, it gave the 
further advantage of an abridged process for buying or selling it by 
the number of its kernels. Under this system, wheat was bought 
and sold by a combination of every property of its nature, with 
reference to quantity ; that is, by number, weight, and measure. 
The statute also fixed its proportional weight and value with 
reference to the weight and value of the silver coin for which it 
was to be exchanged in trade. If, as the most eminent of the mod- 


ern economists maintain, the value of everything in trade is regu- 
lated by the proportional value of money and of wheat, then 
the system of weights and measures, contained in this statute, is 
not only accounted for as originating in the nature of things, but 
it may be doubted whether any other system be reconcileable to 
nature. It was with reference to this system, that, in the intro- 
duction to this report, it was observed, that our own weights and 
measures were originally founded upon an uniformity of propor- 
tion, and not upon an uniformity of identity. 1 

It may be remarked in passing that the effort to make 
the weight of the penny or as it is called in modern troy 
weight " the pennyweight" the standard of all measures of 
weight and volume failed first because of changes in coinage 
and second because the pound used in ordinary exchange 
was of another type and was ultimately strong enough to 
push the troy pound out of common use. The two rec- 
ognized pounds of modern times have obscure histories which 
it is not necessary for our purposes to attempt to follow. 
The standards of volume measure, too, have passed through 
all kinds of vicissitudes. Adams presents tables to show the 
widest local variations in such measures as the bushel and 
the pound. 

In regard to the units of linear measure matters followed 
much the same course. Professor Harkness of the United 
States Naval Observatory writes in regard to the early his- 
tory of the English yard as follows : 

The English measures of length have come down from the 
Saxons, but the oldest standards now existing are the exchequer 
yards of Henry VII (1490) and Elizabeth (1588). These are both 
brass end measures, the former being an octagonal rod about half 
an inch in diameter, very coarsely made, and as rudely divided 
into inches on the right-hand end and into sixteenths of a yard on 
the left-hand end ; the latter, a square rod with sides about half 
1 ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY op. cit., p. 24. 


an inch wide, also divided into sixteenths of a yard and provided 
with a brass bed having end pieces between which the yard fits. 
One end of the bed is divided into inches and half inches. Francis 
Baily, who saw this Elizabethan standard in 1836, speaks of it as 
"this curious instrument, of which it is impossible, at the present 
day, to speak too much in derision or contempt. A common 
kitchen poker, filed at the ends in the rudest manner by the most 
bungling workman, would make as good a standard. It has been 
broken asunder, and the two pieces have been dove-tailed together, 
but so badly that the joint is nearly as loose as that of a pair of 
tongs. The date of this fracture I could not ascertain, it having 
occurred beyond the memory or knowledge of any of the officers 
at the Exchequer. And yet, till within the last ten years, to the 
disgrace of this country, copies of this measure have been cir- 
culated all over Europe and America, with a parchment document 
accompanying them (charged with a stamp that costs 3 10s. 
exclusive of official fees) certifying that they are true copies of the 
English standard." l 

How crude the standards were even in comparatively 
modern times is further attested by the formula presented 
by a sixteenth-century German book on surveying for the 
determination of the unit of land measure. 

To find the length of a rood in the right and lawful way, and 
according to scientific usage, you should do as follows : Stand at 
the door of a church on a Sunday, and bid 16 men to stop, tall 
ones and small ones, as they happen to pass out when the service 
is finished ; then make them put their left feet one behind the other 
and the length thus obtained shall be a right and lawful rood to 
measure and survey land with, and the sixteenth part of it shall 
be a right and lawful foot. 

In the eighteenth century the motive of establishing an 
understanding with France led England to undertake care- 

I HARKNESS, WILLIAM "The Progress of Science as Exemplified in the 
Art of Weighing and Measuring," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the 
Smithsonian Institution, pp. 597-633 ; July, 1888. 


ful comparisons between her own standards and those of her 
neighboring country. The desire for comparable standards 
at this relatively later period grew not so much out of the 
practical demands of commerce as out of the growing interest 
in scientific determinations. 

The latter part of the seventeenth century had seen great 
progress in the development of scientific astronomy and 
physics and mathematics. Measures which throughout the 
medieval period had been thought of altogether in terms of 
cloth or wine or wheat or coins now began to be used for the 
purpose of describing with accuracy the phenomena of nature. 

Professor Harkness describes the occurrences of the 
middle of the eighteenth century as follows : 

In the year 1742 certain members of the Royal Society of Lon- 
don, and of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris, proposed that, 
in order to facilitate a comparison of the scientific operations car- 
ried on in the two countries, accurate standards of the measures 
and weights of both should be prepared and preserved in the ar- 
chives of each of these societies. This proposition having been 
approved, Mr. George Graham, at the instance of the Royal So- 
ciety, had two substantial brass rods made, upon which he laid 
off, with the greatest care, the length of three English feet from the 
standard yard kept at the Tower of London. These two rods, 
together with a set of Troy weights, were then sent over to the 
Paris Academy, which body, in like manner, had the measure of a 
French half toise set off upon the rods, and keeping one, as pre- 
viously agreed, returned the other, together with a standard weight 
of two marcs, to the Royal Society. In 1835, Baily declared this 
copy of the half toise to be of little value, because the original toise- 
6talon was of iron and the standard temperature in France differed 
from that in England. In his opinion the French should have 
sent over an iron half toise in exchange for the English brass yard, 
but this criticism loses much of its force when it is remembered that 
in 1742 neither England nor France had fixed upon a temperature 
at which their standards were to be regarded as of the true length. 


On the return of the rod from Paris, Mr. Graham caused Jonathan 
Sisson to divide the English yard and the French half toise each 
into three equal parts, after which the rod was deposited in the 
archives of the Royal Society, where it still remains. Objection 
having been made that the original and legal standard yard of 
England was not the one at the Tower, but the Elizabethan stand- 
ard at the Exchequer, the Royal Society requested Mr. Graham 
to compare his newly made scale with the latter standard, and on 
Friday, April 22, 1743, he did so in the presence of a committee 
of seven members of the Royal Society. In the following week the 
same gentlemen compared the Royal Society's scale with the 
standards at Guildhall and the Tower, and also with the standards 
of the Clock-maker's Company. These comparisons having shown 
that the copy of the Tower yard upon the Royal Society's scale 
was about 0.0075 of an inch longer than the standard at the Ex- 
chequer, Mr. Graham inscribed upon the Royal Society's scale 
a copy of the latter standard also, marking it with the letters Exeh., 
to distinguish it from the former, which was marked E. (English), 
and from the half toise which was marked F. (French). 1 

The history of French standards of length begins like 
that of the English yard. A part of this history as given by 
Professor Harkness is as follows : 

Turning now to the French standards of length, it is known that 
the ancient toise de masons of Paris was probably the toise of 
Charlemagne (A.D. 742 to 814), or at least of some Emperor Charles, 
and that its etalon was situated in the court-yard of the old Chate- 
let, on the outside of one of the pillars of the building. It still 
existed in 1714, but entirely falsified by the bending of the upper 
part of the pillar. In 1668 the ancient toise of the masons was 
reformed by shortening it five lines ; but whether this reformation 
was an arbitrary change, or merely a change to remedy the effects 
of long use and restore the Etalon to conformity with some more 
carefully preserved standard, is not quite clear. These old etalons 
were iron bars having their ttvo ends turned up at right angles so 

1 HARKNESS, WILLIAM op. cit., p. 602. 


as to form talonSj and the standardizing of end measures was ef- 
fected by fitting them between the talons. Being placed on the 
outside of some public building, they were exposed to wear from 
constant use, to rust, and even to intentional injury by malicious 
persons. Under such conditions every etalon would sooner or 
later become too long and require shortening. 

Respecting the ancient toise of the masons there are two con- 
tradictory stories. On December 1, 1714, La Hire showed to the 
French Academy what he characterized as " a very ancient in- 
strument of mathematics, which has been made by one of our most 
accomplished workmen with very great care, where the foot is 
marked, and which has served to reestablish the toise of the 
Chatelet, as I have been informed by our old mathematicians." 
Forty-four years later, on July 29, 1758, La Condarnine stated to 
the Academy that " We know only by tradition that to adjust the 
length of the new standard, the width of the arcade or interior 
gate of the grand pavilion, which served as an entrance to the old 
Louvre, on the side of the rue Fromenteau, was used. This open- 
ing, according to the plan, should have been twelve feet wide. 
Half of it was taken to fix the length of the new toise, which thus 
became five lines shorter than the old one." Of these two con- 
tradictory statements that of La Hire seems altogether most trust- 
worthy, and the ordinary rules of evidence indicate that it should 
be accepted to the exclusion of the other. 

In 1668 the 6talon of the new toise, since known as the toise- 
etalon du Chdtelet, was fixed against the wall at the foot of the 
staircase of the grand Chatelet de Paris, by whom or at what 
season of the year is not known. Strange as it now seems, this 
standard (very roughly made, exposed in a public place for use or 
abuse by everybody, liable to rust, and certain to be falsified by 
constant wear) was actually used for adjusting the toise of Picard, 
that of Cassini, the toise of Peru and of the North, that of La Caille, 
that of Mairan in short, all the toises employed by the French 
in their geodetic operations during the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries. The lack of any other recognized standard made the 
use of this one imperative ; but the French academicians were well 
aware of its defects and took precautions to guard against them. 


The first toise copied from the 6talon of the Chatelet for scien- 
tific purposes was that used by Picard in his measurement of a 
degree of the. meridian between Paris and Amiens. It was made 
about the year 1668, and would doubtless have become the scien- 
tific standard of France had it not unfortunately disappeared be- 
fore the degree measurements of the eighteenth century were 
begun. The second toise copied from the <5talon of the Chatelet 
for scientific purposes was that used by Messrs. Godin, Bouguer, 
and La Condamine for measuring the base of their arc of the merid- 
ian in Peru. This toise, since known as the toise du Perou, was 
made by the artist Langlois under the immediate direction of Godin 
in 1735, and is still preserved at the Paris Observatory. It is a 
rectangular bar of polished wrought-iron, having a breadth of 
1.58 English inches and a thickness of 0.30 of an inch. All the 
other toises used by the Academy in the eighteenth century were 
compared with it, and ultimately it was made the legal standard 
of France by an order of Louis XV, dated May 16, 1766. As the 
toise of Peru is the oldest authentic copy of the toise of the 
Chatelet, the effect of this order was simply to perpetuate the 
earliest known state of that ancient standard. 1 

The French standard changed abruptly, however, through 
the effort to carry out a proposal made by Talleyrand to the 
National Assembly of France in 1790. This proposal was 
that a new system of weights and measures be set up by 
adopting as a common base of all units a definite unit of 
space, namely, one ten-millionth of the arc of the earth's 
meridian extending from the equator to the pole. Weights 
were to be defined in terms of the weight of a cubic unit of 
water. The whole system was to be formulated in decimal 
units, the units to be designated by uniform prefixes. 

The controversy between the old English system and the 
new French system is still being waged in English-speaking 
countries. The common people are so attached to the Eng- 
lish system which readily permits the use of such fractions 

1 HARKNESS, WILLIAM op. cit. y pp. 605-607. 


as one quarter and one half that they have not adopted for 
common use the decimal system of France. In fact, even in 
France for a long time after the adoption of the metric sys- 
tem the ordinary transactions of the market kept the familiar 
fractional divisions which the people had always found 

Our review has given us ample ground for several gen- 
eralizations. The first is that measurement is a form of 
comparison which begins with the most concrete objects 
easily accessible to the observer. Parts of the body, grains 
of wheat, stones, and natural vessels for holding liquids 
are the first standards. 

The second generalization is that the motives for different 
kinds of measurement are so various that weights and meas- 
ures tend at the outset to show great diversity, with the re- 
sult that different kinds of units are not thought of as belong- 
ing together. Thus weight is not determined in terms of 
cubical dimensions. Furthermore, the various peoples of 
the earth, indeed, the different localities within the same 
country, have different units. A late and very striking ex- 
ample of this is the fact that in the United States to-day the 
number of pounds which the statutes of the various states 
require for a bushel of such commodities as buckwheat and 
sweet potatoes vary by as much as twenty per cent. 

The third generalization is that as the demands of civili- 
zation progress in the direction of precision, the standards 
of measurement are themselves subjected to more searching 
scrutiny. Put in terms of our general discussion, this can be 
stated as follows : When the importance of the institution 
of weights and measures becomes a matter of explicit recog- 
nition, attention is diverted from the uses of the institution 
and is bestowed upon the perfection of the institution itself. 
The perfection of the system is regarded by individuals and 
nations as justified by the superior serviceableness of the 


precise weights and measures thus evolved. In the economy 
of society as a whole, it becomes an advantage to set aside 
energy for the indirect and apparently abstract good of per- 
fecting weights and measures. 

The fourth generalization is that in successive stages of 
an evolutionary series, the purposes which prompt men to 
give attention to the system gradually change. In the first 
stages of the evolution of weights and measures the pur- 
poses were wholly practical. In later stages the desire for 
uniformity brought it to pass that the authority of organized 
society was called in to regulate and systematize the in- 
stitution, because men had arrived at the level where they 
desired consistency as much as practical utility. In a still 
later stage the more abstract virtue of exact scientific com- 
parability between all standards is demanded in order that 
thought may be made general in the full sense of the word. 
So long as commerce was the only incentive for securing 
uniformity of weights and measures, men got on very well 
with rough approximations ; but when they came to think 
about the dimensions of the earth and the wave-length of 
light they saw that the measurements of different countries 
must be made comparable and they saw also that all the 
units must be made sufficiently precise to make critical 
judgments possible. Measurement becomes in these last 
stages the highest form of controlled thinking. Systems of 
measurement take on a kind of sanction and a kind of fixity 
which civil authority, unsupported by scientific authority, 
could never give them. 

In the evolution of weights and measures we have another 
striking illustration of the fact that man has introduced into 
his environment an institution which essentially changes his 
relation to nature. He has created by the exercise of his 
genius an instrument for the guidance of his behavior which 
insures economy of material and effectiveness of conduct in 


the highest degree. At the same time he has set up a guide 
for individuals and a means of compelling the individual to 
conform to the practices of society, which are among the most 
potent factors of civilization. 

It may not be amiss to emphasize once more the fact that 
there is absolutely no instinct in the animal world or in 
human nature which responds to weights and measures. 
It is utterly futile to attempt to bring these creations into 
the class of biological facts which are dealt with in the or- 
dinary applications of the principle of biological variations 
and natural selection. Weights and measures constitute 
one of the institutions of civilization. The history which 
has been sketched in the foregoing pages shows what a vast 
amount of energy has been bestowed on the erection of this 
institution. The history of men's thinking which parallels 
the facts regarding weights and measures is a history of the 
transfer of attention from superficial qualities to fundamental 
values and exact determinations. Modern man thinks in 
terms of units of measurement whereas his remote ances- 
tors thought only in the roughest approximations. Modern 
man thinks in terms of social equity as determined by stand- 
ards which he and all his fellow men are prepared to protect 
and enforce. Primitive man had no such ethical notions 
about quantities and no such devotion to exact descriptions. 
Primitive man had no remotest notion of the possibilities 
of exact measurements of the forces and substances of na- 
ture, which even the common man of every civilized nation 
understands. We live in a world where the luxuries of life 
are delivered to us through meters, reported in Arabic nu- 
merals, and paid for in coin. Truly, civilization has left 
nature and primitive modes of life far behind. 

Human nature has become what it is in modern times 
through its own reactions upon itself. The native capacity 
of man has not changed during the ages, but his methods 


of using his powers have changed. In support of this state- 
ment is cited the anthropological fact that man's skull does 
not seem to have changed in size and presumably there has 
been no change in the size and texture of his cerebrum. The 
fact is also cited that men of one level of civilization when 
brought into contact with representatives of a more complex 
civilization rapidly learn to take on the manners and arts of 
the more cultured group, thus showing that civilization 
depends not on some variation in individuals but on the 
accumulation of devices of adaptation. The reason why 
civilization is a higher mode of life than is savagery is to be 
sought in the fact that the savage has no accumulated insti- 
tutional equipments, no cooperative ways of securing more 
than he can secure by personal effort. 


The three chapters which immediately precede this have 
given sketches of three lines of evolution which are closely 
related. Weights and measures could not be perfected to 
any high degree before men learned to count. The measure- 
ment of time is in principle not different from the measure- 
ment of distances. All of the quantitative devices which 
civilization has invented converge in what we call scientific 
methods of exact thinking. 

The fact that all these lines of evolution have contributed 
to a common end should not mislead us into thinking of them 
as psychologically alike. The mental processes involved in 
the use of numbers are indeed related to measurements, but 
numbers are quite distinct as facts of experience from yards 
and pounds. The comparisons which are made with the aid 
of balances and weights are wholly different in the conscious 
processes which they involve from the analytical division of 
the day into hours and minutes. 

What has been said about the psychological differences 
between different modes of exact scientific thinking can per- 
haps be made clearer by referring to the way in which in- 
dividuals acquire these different types of thinking. Each 
new human being who comes into the world has to go through 
a personal struggle to master number and acquire the art 
of measurement and cultivate the virtue of punctuality and 
its related ideas. Every individual begins life as the race 



began, without number or an understanding of measurement. 
Every individual is obliged to do what the race did, pass 
through a period of acquisition of number, through a period 
of contact with standards of measurement, and through 
another period of drill in punctuality. The only way to be- 
come exact is to take on the various psychological methods 
which make exactness of different types possible. 

While it is true that both the individual and the race start 
without methods of exact thinking and make progress toward 
the general goal by mastering a number of different systems 
of experience, it is equally true that no two individuals fol- 
low the same path in their developments and that no indi- 
vidual follows the path which was taken by the race. 

It will clarify our ideas about both the social processes 
of exact thinking and individual development if we con- 
sider in detail some of the facts which show the variety of 
individual methods of acquiring number and methods of 

Children very commonly acquire the names of the digits 
before they learn the order in which these names are used 
in counting. A child will count in such an order as the fol- 
lowing : one, three, seven, four, six, nine. This shows that 
the social device of counting has not been mastered but 
that one element of the device has been adopted by the 
child. The child has learned from his elders the various 
number names; what is lacking in his experience is the 
serial arrangement. 

We know that there are marked individual differences 
in the ways in which children fix in their minds the number 
series. Some children make use of a visual image in which 
the numbers are arranged in a fixed order. These visual 
images were called by Galton, who first described them, num- 
ber forms. Sometimes the number form gives evidence of 
being borrowed from a clockf ace ; sometimes it is an arbi- 


trary arrangement apparently made up by the individual 
without external guidance. 

The fact that many people do not have number forms but 
are able to keep the numbers in order by merely remembering 
the series of names, shows that there is more than one way 
in which consciousness can operate to retain the number 

Other evidences that people hold numbers in mind and 
think out number combinations in peculiar ways are not 
lacking when one considers the revelations which are made 
by the arithmetic tests. One pupil is shown by these tests 
to be thoroughly acquainted with all the combinations and 
to be accurate and rapid in recalling them. Another pupil 
is competent in addition but deficient in subtraction. One 
pupil adds by counting on his fingers, another by tapping 
on his desk, and another by resolving numbers so as to arrive 
at combinations which make ten in as many cases as possible. 

When one contrasts these personal methods of dealing 
with numbers with the fact that the laws of arithmetical 
combinations are regarded in logic and science as among the 
most immutable principles with which the mind has to deal, 
one realizes that there are two wholly different sets of facts 
in the world ; there is on the one hand a fundamental system 
and on the other hand the individual's assimilation of this 

The number system as it is presented to the individual is 
a highly perfected device. It is to be compared with some 
ingeniously constructed machine which is put at the disposal 
of a person who had nothing to do with its construction. 
The person will, through effort and repeated experiments, 
gradually become accustomed to the machine and finally 
will acquire skill in its use. There is no difficulty in such a 
case in distinguishing between the intellectual processes of 
invention and use. The analogy helps to make understand- 


able the difference between the racial contribution to indi- 
vidual thinking and the individual's progressive mastery of 
this racial system. The pupil in the school has presented 
to him by society a perfect number system. He acquires 
more or less skill in the use of this system during periods of 
practice. The pupil's skill is a fact of a totally different 
order from the number system and from the mental activities 
of the race which produced the number system. 

What has been said about number can be paralleled 
by statements about weights and measures. Children 
very frequently know the names of weights and measures 
without having the slightest knowledge of the meaning of 
these names. It is true of adults as well as of children that 
they know many names of measures which are wholly de- 
tached from concrete experience. Most people do not know 
what weight is represented by the biblical name " talent." 
Equally indefinite is the idea which most people have of a 
" grain" or a "ton." When it comes to interpreting the 
names of measures belonging to the metric system, the con- 
fusion in most American minds is unlimited. All these facts 
show the difference between a social system and individual 
mastery of the system. 

While we are justified in drawing the sharpest contrast 
between individual consciousness and social devices, we 
must not overlook the fact that the social institution acts 
as a constant guide to the individual while he is struggling 
to overtake the race in its methods of thinking. In order 
to make clear what is meant by this statement, one has only 
to consider that the Arabic number system by its very form 
suggests certain very important ideas and helps the in- 
dividual to grasp these ideas. For example, 9 and 90 are 
clearly indicated to be subject to the same laws of combi- 
nation by the fact that the same symbol appears in both 
cases even though its position is different. 


In somewhat the same way, the pupil is guided in his 
thought about time intervals by the fact that each hour is 
subdivided into the same number of minutes showing that 
time moves at a uniform rate in spite of the subjective feeling 
that interesting intervals pass rapidly and empty time seems 
to drag on interminably. 

In short, the individual is not left by the race to work out 
methods of exact thinking ; he is asked to acquire intellec- 
tual skill as early as possible in the use of highly perfected 
devices which society has evolved. Not only is he offered 
the opportunity to avail himself of racial experience, but 
he finds society and its institutions ready to facilitate in 
every way possible his initiation into the uses of the devices 
which will make him competent in the methods of exact 

There are some cases in which the individual finds it im- 
possible to acquire skill in the use of a social institution. It 
is a well-known fact that defectives, even when they are 
able to cope with many of the conventions of ordinary life, 
find the number system too abstract and complicated for 
their meagerly developed intellectual powers. Here is a 
case where the psychological processes which have built 
up the number system have gone so far beyond the 
individual that he is not able to overtake society at all. 

There are other cases in which persons of normal in- 
telligence have for some reason or other deviated early in 
life from the path laid out by the social institution. The 
deviation may be due to emotional excitement which has 
created a fear of the number system or it may be due to 
confusion arising from the omission of some crucial intellec- 
tual step which ought to have been taken in the early stages 
of training. Whatever the cause, some individuals are as 
incompetent in the use of number as others are in the manip- 
ulation of tools. Where such a failure of the individual to 


learn the use of the social device continues into adult life 
its effect on the general intellectual attitude of the individual 
is often marked. What is commonly to be expected under 
such conditions is the withdrawal of the individual from 
all situations in which a mastery of the number system is es- 
sential to success. In other words society's devices are so 
useful as means of adaptation that the only safe procedure 
for a person who is not skillful in the uses of these devices 
is to keep out of the competitions for which his equipment 
is not adequate. 

It is important to note that complete withdrawal from the 
methods of exact thinking which have been evolved by 
society is not compatible with successful life. There was a 
time when the hunter or the warrior could get on and even 
be a leader in his tribe although utterly unequipped with 
number or the arts of measurement, but the time has passed 
when human life can be successful without some mastery 
of the institutions of precision and punctuality. The in- 
stitutions which are here under discussion have become com- 
pulsory. Society has occupied the world so fully that its 
methods must be adopted by all who seek to enjoy the ad- 
vantages of cooperative life. 

We shall have occasion in later chapters to describe cer- 
tain institutions which society is prepared to treat as purely 
optional, but number and punctuality and measurement 
are too vital to common intercourse to be left to individual 
caprice. They must be cultivated in some degree by all 
members of civilized groups. 

The degrees to which society carries its insistence in the 
cases of the three systems of precise thinking which are under 
consideration are quite as different as the individual modes 
of mastering these systems. One must have practically 
complete mastery of the time system and must be thoroughly 
drilled in habits of punctuality. One need have only a 


limited acquaintance with number combinations. The 
simple transactions of ordinary life which require number 
have been investigated and have proved to be astonishingly 
few. When, however, one encounters a number transaction, 
society insists that the individual follow absolutely the 
rules of the system. In the case of weights and measures 
less understanding is demanded, but absolute conformity to 
social rules is insisted upon. 

These statements will serve to make clear what was meant 
earlier in the chapter where it was pointed out that time and 
number and weights and measures are distinct spheres of 
experience in spite of the fact that in their most highly per- 
fected forms they are all classified together under the single 
term " precision. " " Precision " is an abstract term. It 
designates a fact of human experience and social evolution 
which has been approached from various different directions. 
It is a single term covering a wide variety of facts which 
have come to be recognized as psychologically similar though 
they are totally different in their history and in the habits 
of life which they induce in the individual. 



It is an inversion of the historical order of human evolu- 
tion to discuss writing before taking up language ; the same 
assertion holds true with regard to each of the institutions 
treated in earlier chapters. It is undoubtedly true that 
all of the social arts which man has devised were subsequent 
in their appearance to language. Indeed, it may be as- 
sumed with safety that man's emergence from the level of 
brute life is coincident with the first use of language. The 
justification for beginning a discussion of human institu- 
tions with a survey of tool consciousness and the other 
topics which have been treated in earlier chapters of this 
book is that these later institutions have shorter and more 
recent histories, and the records of their evolution are 
more accessible. We have, therefore, been preparing the 
way for an understanding of language, the oldest and most 
important human invention, by gradually elucidating the 
principles of social cooperation revealed in the more recent 
products of man's life in groups. 

There is another justification for the treatment of the 
alphabet in a chapter distinct from that which discusses 
language ; this is found in the fact that the earliest form of 
writing was not directly related to oral language, but was a 
form of communication which made its appeal to the eye 
and to the visual imagination alone. 

A specimen of such writing is given in Figure VIII. Such 
writing consists in a few rough pictures. The author of this 



specimen was evidently possessed of little ability to make 
fine, regular lines ; her muscles were not trained for delicate 
work; her implements were of the crudest kind. There 
was not even a clear and fully matured recognition of the 
form of the objects presented ; no details are present, and 
the whole picture is nothing more than a rough approxima- 
tion to the original. But rough and crude as these drawings 
are, they appealed to the savage's memory and imagina- 
tion enough to communicate to him certain ideas. What 



could be more natural than that these lines and figures in- 
tended for the eyes should reproduce that aspect of objects 
which appeal to the eyes, namely, the form? Primitive 
writing was throughout a matter of visual interest and 
visual recognition. 

Starting from this primitive picture writing, human 

1 The Ojibwa love-letter reproduced in the figure is recorded and explained 
by Garrick Mallery in the Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1888-89, 
p. 363. The writer, a girl of the Bear totem (b), summons her lover, who 
belongs to the Mud Puppy totem (d), along the various trails indicated, to the 
lodge (c) from which the beckoning hand protrudes. The enclosed figures 
at I, j, and k are lakes. The crosses indicate that the girl and her companions 
are Christians. "The clear indications of locality," writes Mallery, "serve 
as well as if in a city a young woman had sent an invitation to her young man 
to call at a certain street and number. " 


evolution moved in two different directions. In the first 
place, man began to take more and more interest in the 
reproduction of form. The details of objects began to re- 
ceive more attention and to be more accurately and fully 
incorporated into the reproductions. This refinement of 
form very soon began to go beyond the limits necessary for 
the communication of ideas, and an art developed, the chief 
interest of which was the complete treatment of form. 

The second line of development which began with primi- 
tive picture writing is the one in which we are interested in 
our present discussion ; it is the line of development of writ- 
ing proper. Here we must recognize a greater devotion 
than in art to the communication of ideas. The figures 
used in writing are of interest only in so far as form stands 
for some kind of meaning. The result of this chief interest 
in meaning rather than in form is that the outline drawings 
are reduced to their simplest terms. There is, indeed, a 
point beyond which the form cannot be simplified without 
danger that it will lose its power of communicating a dis- 
tinct idea. Thus, if the savage wishes to make a distinc- 
tion between horses and cattle, he must keep enough of the 
distinctive details to insure the communication of the right 
idea. He accomplishes his end in this particular case by 
retaining the horns as the distinctive mark of his drawing 
for cattle. But while form cannot be lost sight of entirely, 
it is so unimportant that purely external causes may con- 
tribute to the corruption and simplification of the forms of 
the drawings. One such outside consideration is to be 
found in the fact that straight lines are easier to draw than 
are curved lines. The result is that forms were much sim- 
plified in the early stages of writing, in the interest of ease 
of production. 

Some excellent illustrations of corruptions in form are 
given to us by students of Chinese writing. Chinese writing 


is not like our own, made up of various combinations of a 
few phonetic elements. It has a separate symbol for each 
word. The word for sun, for example, is a single symbol 
rather than a series of three letters as in our writing. The 
modern Chinese symbol for sun looks like a ladder with three 
rungs. At first sight this does not seem to have any relation 
so far as its form is concerned to the object for which it 
stands. But if one compares this modern symbol with a 
symbol of more ancient origin, the modern form is im- 
mediately recognized as due to the general principle that 
straight lines are easier to draw with the brush pen of the 
Chinese than are curved lines. The ancient form for the 



sun is an outline picture consisting of a circle with a dot in 
the center. The dot of the ancient symbol is the middle 
rung of the modern ladder-shaped symbol. The sides and 
the top and bottom rungs of the modern figure are the final 
rectilinear remains of the circumference of the ancient circle. 

Figure IX reproduces a number of ancient and modern 
Chinese forms which bear out the same conclusions as those 
reached in the discussion of the symbol for the sun. 

Form-writing thus developed gradually into what may 
be called convenient or simplified form-writing. The con- 
venient writing would not have been possible unless there 
had been accompanying mental emphasis on meaning rather 
than form. This fact of greater and greater emphasis on 

1 The characters signify, reading from left to right : sun, moon, mountain, 
tree (or wood), dog. 


meaning ultimately results in reducing the characters used 
in the writing to what we call symbols or mere signs. 

Interest in symbols, that is, the attitude that meanings 
are more significant than are forms, makes possible a wide 
range for development. Symbols, freed largely from ref- 
erences to objects of like form, came very soon to have two 
or three meanings, some very remote from the original sig- 
nification. Thus, in Egypt the figure of the owl came to 
mean not only the bird itself but also, as with us, night, 
and, still more indirectly, silence and wisdom. Among 
our American Indians, the animal which the Indian chief 
painted on his totem pole came to stand for the man, and 
sometimes for the whole tribe. Symbolism of a highly 
developed type thus became common. 

At this point there set in another line of development 
which was slowly worked out in Egypt and Phoenicia, and 
which has had the greatest possible influence on the develop- 
ment of our present form of writing. As soon as symbolism 
had reached a high development, it naturally came into 
mental association with oral speech which is another sym- 
bolic mode of representing objects for the purposes of human 
intercommunication. It needs no long discussion to show 
that speech is a kind of symbolism. A given sound arouses 
in the imagination an idea which is quite remote from the 
sound itself. 

To make clear the way in which the symbolism of picture 
writing and the symbolism of speech came together, let us 
sketch the process of evolution which took place somewhere 
among the Semitic tribes. When the primitive man of these 
tribes looked at a given object, he received a direct im- 
pression. If after having received a direct impression, 
he wished to arouse in a companion a recollection of such 
a direct experience, he could do it in one of two ways, either 
by making a symbolic mark or by making a symbolic sound. 


The symbolic mark and the symbolic sound had at first no 
connection except as they both referred to the same object. 
But very soon the sound symbolism began to assert its 
superiority. The sound name of an object was so fully de- 
veloped and so thoroughly familiar that it took precedence 
as the means of expressing thought. Men did not even 
stop to recall in full the direct impression made by the sight 
of the object. They began to think in words, as we do, and 
to let the objective appearances drop into the background. 
Just as soon as this happened, the written symbol was 
forced into relations with the superior sound symbol. 

The first steps of this growing relation between sound 
and written symbols were of a type with which we are all 
quite familiar. There is a kind of puzzle called a rebus in 
which the first personal pronoun, "I," for example, is rep- 
resented by a picture of the organ of sight, which has a 
name similar in sound. The verb "can" may likewise be 
represented in a rebus by that convenient tin article of 
household furniture with which we are familiar. We are 
thus well on the way to a sentence. The sentence, "I can 
see a house/ ' is easily completed in the same general way, 
so far as the verb "see" is concerned, by a picture or symbol 
of the ocean ; and then all that is needed as a representation 
of the word "house" is a written symbol or a true picture of 
the house itself. 

This kind of rebus writing actually appears in some of the 
old Egyptian records, and shows how sounds and written 
symbols began to be related. Thus, the Egyptians had a 
word, the name of one of their gods, which was pronounced 
Hesiri. They also had two distinct words, hes and iri, 
exactly like the two syllables of the name Hesiri, so far as 
the sounds were concerned, but in no way related in meaning 
to the name of this god. The two separate words, hes and 
iri, meant, respectively, a seat and an eye. When the 


Egyptians wanted to write the name of the god, they did 
not draw his picture, but they evidently thought of his name, 
and then, thinking of the sounds only, they made this double 
pun that he was a seat-eye god. After that the representa- 
tion of the god was easy, for they drew first the seat and 
then the eye and let it go at that. Another illustration from 
Egypt is the use of a basket to mean lord. This usage is 
perfectly clear as soon as we know that the word for basket 
and the word for lord were both pronounced neb. 

Written symbols acquired through connection with sound 
words a wider range of usefulness than they had before. 
The picture of a basket, for example, came to stand, not only 
for the basket itself, and for the act of carrying, and for 
the idea of plenty, but also, through the association with 
sound, for the word "lord." 

After the perfection of this form of rebus-writing, the 
sound association went forward another step. Instead of 
the symbol calling to mind the total sound which it repre- 
sented, the symbol began to stand for the first sound con- 
tained in its name. Thus, to invent an illustration using our 
own English words, suppose one wanted to write the word 
" monkey." A monkey being an animal hard to draw, the 
writer would divide the word into two syllables, and would 
then look around for some object with a name the first syl- 
lable of which is the same as the first syllable of " monkey." 
Mon- is the common syllable for the words " money" and 
" monkey." The picture of a coin is used to stand for the de- 
sired syllable won-, and the word " monkey " is half written. 
The last part of the word " monkey" can be easily repre- 
sented in the simple rebus fashion by the picture of a key. 

This way of breaking up words so as to extract the first 
syllable is a very laborious device; we can hardly under- 
stand how the race had ingenuity enough or patience enough 
to complete the task. But a race which had no other de- 


vice for recording its experiences would naturally keep at 
the task of analyzing words for the sake of the results se- 
cured in fluency and completeness of writing. 

The illustration which we invented to explain the way 
in which symbols came to represent single sounds is paral- 
leled by real historical facts in abundance. Thus in the an- 
cient Egyptian language the name of the owl began with 
the sound which we represent to-day by the letter "M." 
The Egyptians used the owl as a symbol for this "M" 



sound ; and, as little as one would guess it from the form of 
our letter "M," this letter is the direct historical descendant 
of the Egyptian symbol of the owl. Figure X will make 
clear how the line of descent is traced. The series of forms 
in the figure shows again the fact to which we earlier called 
attention, namely, the fact that as interest in the form of 

1 The figure shows the derivation of the letter M from the Egyptian hiero- 
glyphic owl. The four forms in the upper part of the figure are Egyptian 
forms. The first on the left is the usual hieroglyphic picture of the owl, or, 
as it was called in the Egyptian language, mulak. The three remaining upper 
forms are found in the writings of the Egyptian priests. The first form on the 
left of the lower series is an ancient Semitic form. Then follow in order an 
ancient Greek form, and two later Greek forms. (Adapted from Isaac Taylor, 
The History of the Alphabet, pp. 9-10, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899.) 


the symbol grows less and less intense, the form becomes 
increasingly simple and convenient. It is finally reduced, as 
are all our letters, to comparatively simple groups of lines, 
not resembling even remotely the object from which the 
figure was first derived. 

The historical succession shown in Figure X can advanta- 
geously be made a subject of detailed study. The second 
figure in the upper line is evidently a simplification made 
in the interests of ease of production. The third and fourth 
figures carry the matter a step further. It is obvious that 
the simplified figures make a demand on the reader which 
the full figure does not make. The reader of the simplified 
figure must be ready to respond with an interpretation to 
a mere suggestion. This greater readiness of interpretation 
depends on familiarity with the symbols or, putting the 
matter in other terms, on training. The priests who were 
constantly dealing with written records were, as contrasted 
with the ordinary observer, highly trained in recognition of 
symbols; they were competent to use freely therefore the 
abbreviated or simplified symbols. 

We have now traced the history of writing down to the 
point at which it began to be a means of representing sounds 
rather than direct visual experiences. We have seen that 
the primitive attitude of mind was one of attention to form, 
that the gradual emancipation of attention from form and 
its transfer to meaning were complicated by the necessity of 
subordinating written symbolism to the more fully developed 
sound symbolism of speech. All this evolution was very 
ancient. The Greeks emerged from their early association 
with the Oriental world fully equipped with a sound alpha- 
bet, which was, doubtless, borrowed largely from the Phoe- 
nicians. The Romans learned the same alphabet from their 
Italian ancestors and later modified it through their own 
use and through contact with the later Greek forms. 


The forms of our own letters are derived in very direct 
lines of descent from the Roman forms, so that we may con- 
fine our attention to the Roman alphabet and the later 
European alphabets derived from the Roman. 

The earliest Roman letters were used on monuments, 
and owe their form very largely to the hard materials on 



which they were traced. The letters were made up almost 
entirely of straight lines and sharp angles. They were all 
very nearly uniform in height, and were written without con- 
nections between the successive letters and without breaks 

1 The specimen of Roman capitals is from a manuscript of Vergil's Georgics. 
The letters here reproduced show the first parts of four successive lines and 
are to be deciphered as follows : 

Hie volat simul . . . 
Hie vel ad Eleim . . . 
Sudabit spatia . . . 
Belgica vel mol . . . 

Arndt, Wilhelm Ferdinand Schrifttafeln zur Erlernung der lateinischen 
Palceographie, hrsq. von Wilhelm Arndt; besorgt von Michael Tangl, 
Berlin, 1903-06. 107 facsimiles in 3 portfolios. 


between words. Figure XI gives an illustration of this earli- 
est type of writing, as used even in some of the later Roman 
manuscripts. One needs only to look at the letters to rec- 
ognize at once that in the modern world many of these same 
Roman capitals are still doing service where straight, angu- 
lar letters of great legibility are desirable and possible. 

The Roman capitals represent what we may call the 
maximum of legibility. It would be difficult to improve 
upon these forms if mere legibility were the only considera- 
tion in the formation of letters. But there are consider- 
ations other than mere legibility. The capitals are very 
clumsy letters to write. One cannot write rapidly when 
one has to make those sharp angles and separate letters. 

The demand for a more rapid form of writing must have 
made itself felt very early. Indeed, we have evidence from 
a few business records belonging to the beginning of the 
Christian era that even the early Romans had a rapid run- 
ning hand which was used for ordinary business records. 

Figure XII reproduces a specimen of this early Roman 
cursive, as it is called. This cursive differs from the capitals 
in a number of characteristics. The letters tend to run into 
each other. In some cases in even the earliest cursive, 
there are connecting lines or ligatures between the letters. 
These ligatures are regular and pronounced characteristics 
of all the later forms of cursive. Their less frequent appear- 
ance in the early forms is due to the fact that this writing 
was done for the most part on very unpliable wax tablets, 
and was, consequently, by no means as free and easy as was 
the later writing which was done after better materials had 
been discovered in papyrus and vellum on which one wrote 
with pen and ink. Finally, it must be noted that this early 
cursive writing is by no means as regular or legible as is the 
writing made up of capitals. Something of the regularity 
of form and of the clear-cut legibility of letters is always 


sacrificed when rapidity of execution becomes the chief 

The contrast between capitals and cursive is the ever- 
recurring contrast between forms of legible writing and 
forms of rapid writing. As one comes down through the 
later periods of the history of writing, one finds a succession 
of forms devised like the capitals for legibility and beauty, 
and on the other hand one finds other forms devised for rapid 
and easy writing. The tendency of the beautiful and very 


S- x 


legible forms is to become more and more regular and dif- 
ficult to make, and the tendency of the rapid forms is to 
become more and more difficult to read. 

After the Roman capitals and the early cursive, there 
grew up a kind of compromise form which was less angular 
than the capitals, and hence easier to write. It was used, 
however, only by the book-making scribes, for it was still 

1 The figure shows early Roman cursive found on a wax tablet written in the 
year 139 A.D. It relates to the purchase of a slave girl. It is to be deciphered 
as follows : 

Maximus Batonis puellam nomine 
Passiam sive ea quo alio nomne est, an 

circiter plus minus empta sportellaria 
norum sex emit mancipioque accepit 
de Dasio Verzonis Pirusta ex Kaviereti 

# ducentis quinque. (Arndt's Tafeln.) 


too difficult for ordinary use. This form is reproduced in 
Figure XIII and is the so-called uncial form. A typical let- 
ter in this form is the letter e, which is no longer angular as it 
was in the capitals, but is much more like our lower-case 
letter. The derivation of this round e from the square 
capital is sufficiently direct to be obvious. The motive for 
inventing this new form is also obvious. The round letter 
is much more economical in the number of movements which 
it requires. In the square capital, the upper and lower 
horizontal strokes and the one vertical stroke, all had to be 

made separately. In 
the round letter, one 
uninterrupted curved 
movement was substi- 

tuted f or the three sep _ 

arate movements just 
mentioned. The single 
curved movement is, 
therefore, to be looked 

FIG. XIIL - UNCIALS i u P on as a concession to 

the demand for fluency. 

But the concession would never have been possible without 
a change from the earlier writing materials. The conditions 
favorable to this change are explained by an eminent au- 
thority in the following sentence : "To the substitution 
of a soft surface for a hard one, of the pen for the graving 
tool, we undoubtedly owe the rounded forms of the uncial 
letters." 2 

1 The figure shows uncials from a manuscript of Cicero's De Republica. 
The manuscript was probably written in the third century. The lines are to 
be deciphered as follows : 

quoscumque cog tis est tumue 

nosse sapien ' ro prospicere (Arndt's Tafeln.) 

2 THOMPSON, E. N. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ninth edition, XVIII, 
p. 145 ; Cambridge University Press. 


One may say that the process which shows itself in the 
development of this e is the typical process of compromise 
which has been going on since the Roman period even down 
to our own time. There is a constant and growing conces- 
sion to the demand for easier movement on the one side, 
and a clear effort on the other side to preserve the legibility 
and beauty of the letter. The great variety of forms in- 
vented since that early date are nothing more nor less than 
the experiments of the race in legibility and beauty, and 
ease and fluency of writing. 

During these experiments almost every conceivable form 
has been tried. The widest extremes have been reached and 
most of the forms tried have been abandoned. The cursive 
grew so illegible in the thirteenth century, we are told, that 
Frederick II was obliged to prohibit its use. The tendencies 
toward elaboration among the careful and artistic writers 
went to such extremes that months were spent on a single 

With the invention of printing there entered a factor 
which tended to put a stop to experimenting with forms. 
The makers of types began to select from among the various 
scripts used by the scribes of the time, and the alphabet 
began to settle into its final form. The German printers, 
for example, selected the forms which we know as the Gothic 
letters. The world has decided that the German printers 
made a mistake, and most civilized nations, and even some 
of the better German printers of to-day, are using the much 
simpler and more legible forms of the old Roman capitals 
and later uncials. 

The invention of printing also fixed our English script. 
We borrowed the style of letter that had been made per- 
manent by an Italian printer. Before we turn to that 
matter, however, let us glance at one or two forms of medi- 
eval script which will show us what we escaped. Figure XIV 


reproduces one of the most elaborate and fantastic of the 
early scripts. It is without the virtues of beauty or legi- 
bility, and it was too elaborate to survive in a busy world. 
On the other hand, the specimen of Anglo-Saxon writing 
shown in Figure XV certainly is beautiful and legible ; its 
cardinal and fatal fault is its elaborate and unwieldy form. 
We are fortunate in the form of script which was finally 
adopted in England. We are fortunate as compared, for 


example, with the Germans, who are even to this day con- 
tinuing to use an elaborate and angular form of writing. 
It is to Italy that we owe our script. In the days of Queen 
Elizabeth, the educated Englishman went to Italy to gain 
polish from contact with an older civilization and from 
Italy he brought back a simple, beautiful, running script. 
This script was borrowed from the form of printed letters 
which we call italics. The very name " italics " shows that 

1 The figure shows a specimen of Merovingian cursive from the year 688 A.D. 
The part here reproduced is the end of the first line of the manuscript. The 
four lines which appear below the letters and extend into the writing are the 
upper loops of some of the letters of the line just below the one here reproduced. 
The letters are to be deciphered as follows : 

Ideoque vestra cognuscat industria quod nos 

(Arndt's Tafeln.) 


the type was made in Italy. The story goes that the famous 
printer Manutius Aldus, who did his work early in the six- 
teenth century, copied the handwriting of the great scholar 
Petrarch, and that Pope Julius, in recognition of the beauty 
of his new type, granted Aldus the exclusive right to use 
it. This type of Aldus became our italics, and undoubt- 
edly was one of the 


mining our modern 

"ThtlfS. a 

number of supple- 

mentary discus- r A 


Sions Which may EIGHTH CENTURY * 

be added to this 

main outline of the evolution of writing in order to throw 
much light on the way in which the mind of man works in 
evolving institutions. Taylor points out that the invention 
of alphabetic symbols can be traced back in Egyptian his- 
tory to a very early date, but the invention was not fully 
utilized. Taylor's discussion of this matter is as follows : 

Thus we see that from the times of the earliest known monu- 
ments the hieroglyphic writers possessed a sufficient number of 
true letters to enable them to write alphabetically. They seem, 
however, not to have dared to trust themselves with their own great 
invention, by confining themselves, as they might have done, to 
the magnificent simplicity of the alphabet which they had poten- 
tially discovered. They thought it needful to interpret the mean- 

1 The letters in the figure are Anglo-Saxon from an eighth-century manu- 
script of Beda's History. The lines are to be deciphered as follows : 
librum eximium, quern in exem 
plum Sedulii geminato opere, 
et versibus exametris et prosa 
conposuit. Scripsit et alia (Arndt's Tafeln.) 


ing of their alphabetic symbols by perplexing additions of ideo- 
graphic and syllabic signs. We find a word spelt out alphabeti- 
cally, a needless syllabic sign is then added, and this is followed by 
an unnecessary ideogram. The plan is so cumbrous as to seem 
to us almost inconceivable. We have letters, syllables, and ideo- 
grams piled up one on another in a perplexing confusion. So 
many crutches were thought necessary that walking became an 
art of the utmost difficulty. 

But all the same, in the tangled wilderness of the hieroglyphic 
writing the letters of the alphabet lay concealed. All that re- 
mained to be done was to take one simple step boldly to dis- 
card all the non-alphabetic elements, at once to sweep away the 
superfluous lumber, rejecting all the ideograms, the homophones, 
the polyphones, the syllables, and the symbolic signs to which the 
Egyptian scribes so fondly clung, and so to leave revealed, in its 
grand simplicity, the nearly perfect alphabet of which, without 
knowing it, the Egyptians had been virtually in possession for 
almost countless ages. 

But this great achievement, simple and easy as it seems, was 
beyond the power of Egyptian conservatism to effect. The step 
was so easy as almost to be impossible. It was left to another 
people to take up the unsolved problem, and to effect the grand 
discovery a discovery at once so fertile in its results, so weighty 
in the history of the progress of human culture. The triumph of 
this great conception was reserved for the gifted Semitic race. 
To the sons of Shem we owe the two most precious possessions of 
mankind. The first of them is the Alphabet : the second is the 
Book, and the Religion of the Book. 1 

Conservatism, or hesitation in modifying a mode of be- 
havior after it has once been set up is typical of human 
nature in all ages. If there were need of further illustra- 
tions of this, they could be readily supplied out of very 
recent history. English spelling is known to be unneces- 

1 TAYLOR, ISAAC The History of the Alphabet, I, pp. 68-69 ; Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1899. 


sarily complex. The letters used in our writing are many 
of them mere historical remnants. Are we willing to drop 
them? Only very reluctantly. The older generation has 
learned the clumsy combination of letters which spell the 
word " though " and is quite unwilling to abandon its usual 
mode of spelling and seeing this word for the simpler form 

In seeking an explanation of the changes which have taken 
place in written forms, Taylor makes a very suggestive com- 
ment on one of the most important conditions under which 
conservatism can be overcome. Regarding the relation of 
Chinese to Japanese writing he makes the following state- 
ment : 

The monosyllabic nature of the language of the Chinese enabled 
them to elaborate the rebus into a graphic system so complete as to 
make it possible to dispense with any advance towards an alpha- 
betic method. In a monosyllabic language the interval which 
ordinarily separates the rebus from syllabic writing does not exist. 
Hence it was possible for the Chinese system of verbal phono- 
grams to remain essentially unchanged for a period which their 
tradition fixes at upwards of 4,000 years. But in Japan the con- 
ditions of the problem were wholly different. About the 3rd cen- 
tury, A.D., at the time of the great Eastern extension of the Bud- 
dhist faith, the Japanese came into contact with the civilization of 
China, and obtained a knowledge of the characters in which the 
Chinese literature was written. The Japanese language being 
polysyllabic, the Chinese characters, which are verbal phonograms, 
could only be used for the expression of the polysyllabic Japanese 
words by being treated as syllabic signs. 1 

Later Taylor generalizes on the matter thus : 

In the creation of the Japanese and Annamese syllabaries out 
of the Chinese ideograms, we have instances of a very general law 
which governs the development of graphic systems. During a 

1 TAYLOR, ISAAC op. cit., I, p. 34. 


period of four thousand years the Chinese, left to themselves, were 
unable to advance beyond ideographic writing. But this impor- 
tant step was, as we have seen, readily accomplished when the 
Chinese writing had to be adapted to a language of another type. 
As a rule it is found that the advance from one stage in the develop- 
ment of writing to the next is only attained by the transmission of 
a graphic system from one nation to another. The transmission 
of the Aztec Hieroglyphs to the Mayas of Yucatan, of the Egyp- 
tian Hieroglyphs to the Semites, and the thrice repeated trans- 
mission of the Semitic alphabet to Aryan nations to the Greeks, 
to the Persians, and to the Indians are instances in point. 
Each of these transmissions was accompanied by important de- 
velopments in the art of writing. 1 

Such statements are full of significance for the student of 
social institutions. They show that the higher types of 
institutional adaptation are not mere continuations of the 
lower types. The step in evolution which is taken when a 
new institution appears is long and difficult. Conditions 
must be favorable for what may be described as a radically 
new departure. Such favorable conditions have often been 
partly ready for a long period before the conscious step be- 
came possible which consummated the change. 

The point to be emphasized in this discussion is that 
progress depends on change rather than on mere continuation. 
The history of China shows conclusively that mere perpet- 
uation of an institution and additions of uniform elements 
often lead to the production of a stagnant rather than a 
progressive condition. Taylor points out that the Chinese 
system of writing became after long ages of use too clumsy 
to serve as a means of national progress. He says : 

It is plain that to acquire an exhaustive knowledge of such a 
cumbrous system of writing would be a very formidable task. 
But even to obtain such an acquaintance with it as to be able to 
1 TAYLOR, ISAAC op. tit., I, p. 39. 


write a common business letter, or to read an ordinary book, it 
is necessary for a Chinese student to commit to memory some 
6,000 or 7,000 of these groups of characters. This by itself con- 
stitutes a serious tax upon the memory, and the tax on the facul- 
ties of attention and accuracy is even greater, for many of the 
characters being necessarily very much alike, it is most difficult 
to distinguish them without mistake, as will be seen by the in- 
spection of the columns of any Chinese book. The result is that 
at the age of twenty-five a diligent Chinese student has barely 
acquired the same amount of facility in reading and writing which 
is usually attained by a child in an English village school at the 
age of ten. It may fairly be said that with the Chinese method 
it takes twenty years instead of five to learn to read and write. 1 

How far the conditions here described go to explain the 
static condition of Chinese civilization until recent times, 
is difficult to say, but it is quite certain that in its writing and 
in all of its other social institutions, China shows at once the 
virtues and defects of uninterrupted growth in a single 

Turning from the study of the origins of writing to present- 
day conditions, we find that ability to read and write is 
so essential to the maintenance of a democratic state that 
the institutions of popular government may be said to be 
absolutely dependent on the spread of literacy. It has been 
asserted that no nation has ever risen to the level of self- 
government in which the percentage of illiteracy exceeds 
twenty. Certain it is that a striking object lesson of the 
dangers of illiteracy is given in the chaotic political condi- 
tions in Russia and Mexico. The great majority of the 
population in these countries cannot read or write. They 
cannot be reached through newspapers and books and as a 
result the spread of rumors and superstitious prejudices pre- 
vents the creation of a wholesome public opinion. 

1 TAYLOR, ISAAC op. tit., I, pp. 32-33. 


In those countries where the population is highly literate 
there has been in recent times a vastly increased breadth 
of public understanding of governmental and social policy. 
This evolution of general political intelligence is directly 
paralleled by an increase in the popular mastery of the 
arts of reading and writing. 

In the middle of the last century the communities of the 
United States were hardly more than isolated groups of 
rural provincials. Their knowledge of national policies and 
their interest in matters outside their own narrow circle of 
direct oral communication were small. During the last three 
quarters of a century the situation has undergone a radical 
change with respect both to general interest in public policy 
and to general diffusion of literacy. 

A knowledge of the extent to which writing has gained 
ground as a common art in the United States in the last 
three quarters of a century can be obtained from an exam- 
ination of the statistics of the post office. If we add together 
the money paid for letter postage in 1843 and assume that 
it was spent for the cheapest letter that could be forwarded 
through the mails, it will be found that the average letter- 
writing of each inhabitant during the full year amounted to 
less than four letters of one sheet each. This estimate is 
altogether extravagant because the lowest letter postage 
of that date, namely, six cents, would carry only one sheet 
of paper within a radius of thirty miles. If letters went 
more than thirty miles, or were made up of more than one 
sheet, they cost more, reaching a maximum at four hundred 
miles or more, when each sheet cost twenty-five cents. 
Letters sent at rates of postage higher than the minimum 
would reduce the average computed. It is fair to assume, 
therefore, that letter-writing in 1843 was not a common 

Other facts of the same import are as follows : In 1840 


the revenue of the post office for all classes of mail was 
twenty-seven cents per year for each inhabitant of the 
United States. This amount had not doubled in 1870, 
when it was forty-nine cents. It rose to the point where in 
1890 it was $0.97; in 1900, $1.35; and in 1910, $2.43. 
Not all of these expenditures were for letters, but the figures 
show that reading and writing are much more commonly 
used to-day than they were a generation ago. This con- 
clusion is overwhelming when account is taken of the steady 
reduction in rates which has taken place during the period 
under discussion. 

Such statistics emphasize the fact that modern civiliza- 
tion has adopted writing as one of its most important in- 
struments for the promotion of cooperation. The ac- 
celerated pace at which the institution has come into prom- 
inence shows that men are placing less reliance on earlier 
modes of adaptation and are emphasizing this which is a 
highly evolved social convention. 

If this rapid spread of writing and reading had not oc- 
curred it is difficult to see how there could have matured 
on this continent the type of civilization in the midst of 
which we live. Anyone who tries to explain our civilization 
must find in the arts under discussion factors absolutely 
essential to the explanation of our industrial, social, and 
political life. 

The attitude of modern society on the matter of writing 
and its corresponding art, reading, is entirely different to- 
day from that which appears at an earlier period in our 
national history. It is within the personal knowledge of 
people still living in the United States that writing was not 
thought of as essential to the practical equipment of a man. 
If we consider only the most highly authentic figures on this 
matter, we find that, in 1880, 17 per cent of our population 
could not write or read. Back of this date the statistics 


are largely matters of speculation, but it is certain that the 
percentage increases rapidly. We find, for example, in a 
message of Governor Campbell to the legislature of Vir- 
ginia in 1839 the statement that " almost one-quarter part 
of the men applying for marriage licenses were unable to 
write their names/' If we go a little farther back, the pro- 
portion of illiterates undoubtedly puts in the majority 
those who did not command the arts of reading and writing. 

The attitude of modern society is such that a percentage 
of illiteracy as high as that of 1880 is wholly intolerable. 
To-day no man will willingly admit that he cannot read or 
write. The expectation of the nation is that all of its mem- 
bers will come under the influence of the established in- 
stitution of writing to an extent which will make them ready 
participants in the intellectual life of the generation. 

With regard to reading, modern expectations are even 
more far-reaching than are those with regard to writing. 
Public signs are used on every hand on the assumption that 
all who make use of the streets are able to follow written 
directions. The man who cannot read can hardly take care 
of himself in a crowded city. 

The rate at which the expectation that people will read in 
order to share in the common ideas of the nation has es- 
tablished itself can be judged from a series of statistics 
collected some years ago by the Bureau of the Census show- 
ing the number of issues of newspapers and periodicals pub- 
lished in the United States in different years. A graph made 
from the figures is shown in Figure XVI. The correspond- 
ing graph for increase in population is shown in Figure XVII. 

A comparison of these graphs and attention to the sud- 
den change which took place in the rate of publication of 
newspapers and periodicals subsequent to 1880 cannot fail 
to impress the student of American intellectual institu- 
tions. It is perfectly clear that reading became a very much 



more common fact in the years following 1880 than it ever 
was before. It is also clear that the impetus toward ex- 
tensive reading has continued to operate since 1880 with 
constantly increasing effect. 


100 f 




1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 


The importance of this fact as describing the special char- 
acter of the civilization of the United States is further 
brought out by the statement that in 1910 there were pub- 
lished in this country more than 18,000 periodicals of all kinds. 
Of this number 2,226 were daily papers. The total number 


of periodicals published in the world during that year was 
less than 50,000. Germany had 7,000; Great Britain 
9,000 ; Japan 4,300 ; and other countries, smaller numbers. 
Some of the objective facts connected with the develop- 
ment of American periodical publications are mentioned 

xoo r- 





I I I 1 

1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 



by the author of the special census report on newspapers 
and periodicals. He writes : 

This sketch of the rise and development of the American news- 
paper has now reached the period of time which marks the com- 
mencement of the third and present era in its history. It is not 
possible to assign the beginning of this era to any particular year 
or event, its coming being due to a variety of causes, which may be 
enumerated in the following order : First, the establishment of the 
penny press ; second, the development of railroads as a means for 
the distribution of newspapers, the transmission of news reports, 
and the reduction of heavy postage rates ; third, the discovery of 


telegraphy, and its immediate application to the purposes of 
journalism ; and fourth, but not less important than other causes, 
thp Improvements of the printing press, which have rendered it 
possible to print large editions of newspapers in a short time. 1 

In the paragraph just quoted we see a disposition to lay 
stress on the mechanical appliances which make printing 
possible and to disregard the psychological factors con- 
tributed by human nature as though they were to be taken 
for granted. Literally interpreted, the paragraph seems 
to say : If newspapers are produced cheaply and in large 
numbers, human beings will consume them ; human beings 
will devote time and energy to acquiring ability to read 
and they will turn away from the direct pursuit of food and 
comfort which are the fundamental and natural goals of 
animal and primitive human endeavor. All this redirecting 
of the personal energy of human beings does not seem to the 
author of the quotation to be at all remarkable. It is not 
remarkable that the inventor of the cylinder printing press 
used his genius to satisfy a human demand. The only 
facts remarkable in the situation are that steel and iron came 
together and railroads were constructed for the distribution 
of papers ; copper wires and wooden poles covered the land 
and telegraphing began ; power from coal was applied to 
rollers and printed sheets were produced. 

To the student of the psychology of social institutions the 
explanation of printing by reference to its material mani- 
festations is thoroughly unscientific. The cause of all these 
material changes is to be found in the human mind. News- 
papers do not increase in number because presses are built 
for their production. Newspapers increase in number and 
presses are perfected because human beings have through 

1 NORTH, S. N. D. " History and Present Condition of the Newspaper and 
Periodical Press of the United States "; Tenth Annual Census, VIII (1884), 
p. 446. 


long ages been working out a method of intercommunica- 
tion which has proved to be so important in binding together 
national groups that printing has become a human necessity. 
The nation that makes the most rapid progress in this in- 
tellectual institution finds that it has more of the good 
things of life than have other nations. Human nature is 
stimulated by such discoveries to devote more and more of 
its energy to the perfection of its method of communication. 
By its economic system of giving compensations to genius 
which satisfies its desires, the modern nation has set aside 
individuals who devote all their time to perfecting the arts 
of writing and reading. Children are taught that they 
must acquire these arts. Great material resources are put 
at the disposal of those who serve society in the prepara- 
tion of printed matter. In short, human nature has given 
itself over to a new plan of life and action. Is it not crude 
and short-sighted to neglect all these facts and to say that 
the much reading which appears in the United States from 
1880 on is caused by railroads and telegraph and a new 
kind of printing press ? 



There is very little advantage for our purposes in asking 
the question when and how language .originated. There 
is no known tribe or people so low in the scale of life that 
it does not possess some form of language. All the inven- 
tions of the types which have been discussed in earlier chap- 
ters, except possibly the most primitive tools, imply the 
existence of a fairly well-developed language. Trade of 
every kind is not conceivable except among people possessed 
of words; certainly numbers, time measurements, and 
weights and measures would be impossible without language. 
Even the simplest technical arts could hardly have flour- 
ished except in social groups where men had learned the 
lesson of communication. 

Assuming the existence of language from the earliest 
stages of human life, we turn to the task of outlining some 
of the more important improvements which men have pro- 
duced in this instrument of social organization. By this 
discussion we shall discover the relation of language to the 
higher forms of mental life. 

Before entering on that task, we may pause to comment 
on a very striking fact with regard to American books on 
psychology. They omit almost entirely any discussion of 
language. In his two large volumes, James gives in the 
aggregate less than six pages to the subject of language and a 
large part of what he has to say directly on the topic relates 
to the way in which a dog learns to bark. Elsewhere he 



mentions words only incidentally in his treatment of the 
processes of thought. The fact that James thus slights 
language has left its mark on the whole group of younger 
writers who have prepared the textbooks which have issued 
from his example. They, too, treat language in a few 
paragraphs at most, as though it were a psychological 
phenomenon of little or no moment. 

The American writers who have concerned themselves 
with a scientific study of language have been chiefly those 
who were interested in the history of words and grammatical 
forms or those who were absorbed in literature as either 
critics or contributors. Language, in so far as it has been 
a subject of serious study, has therefore come to be thought 
of as something detached from the minds which have refined 
it and made it into the fundamental instrument of social 

It is the purpose of this chapter to counteract so far as 
possible this tendency to neglect the psychological consid- 
eration of language. The discussion of language has been 
postponed to this point in the hope that the conclusions 
reached through the examination of the more concrete 
social institutions have prepared the way for a full under- 
standing of the character and importance of this universal 
and highly evolved instrument of social cooperation. 

When one thinks of the form which human consciousness 
takes on in all its operations, the cardinal importance of 
language is at once evident. No modern man or woman 
could think in the way he or she does during every moment 
of waking life if there were no words. The names of the 
objects about us are the mental counters with which we 
operate in all our conscious efforts to adapt our behavior 
to these objects. Social relations are thought out and 
arranged through the use of words. 

An appreciation of the part which language plays in 


human life can be gained if one asks such questions as the 
following : What part of the mental energy of a modern 
human being is devoted to the use of words ? If one is ab- 
sorbed in the observation of something that is going on be- 
fore one's eyes, what is the most natural way of expressing 
one's absorption? If one is aroused to an emotional atti- 
tude, how does the emotion ordinarily come to the surface? 
If one meets a fellow being, what is the mode of behavior 
induced by the meeting ? If one is in need of information or 
even of physical cooperation from someone else, what in- 
strument is employed in securing it ? The answers which we 
must give to these questions ought to guide psychology in 
its attitude toward language. If we include reading and 
writing as forms of language, and certainly we should, a very 
large fraction of life will have to be assigned to the use of 

The institution of language is so universal and so in- 
timately related to all aspects of mental life that an infinite 
variety of languages and dialects have appeared in the 
course of human history. Each of these has competed for 
a broader recognition than that which it had at the time and 
place of its inception. Like tribes and nations, the less well 
organized languages have in many instances perished in 
the competition and the better languages have survived. 
There is no single language which has virtues so conspicuous 
as those possessed in its field by the Arabic numeral system 
and consequently there is no universal agreement even in 
our day of highly developed international cooperation as 
to the words which shall be used in trade and in personal 

One of the conspicuous reasons why the competition be- 
tween languages has not run its full course, as did the com- 
petition between numeral systems, is that languages are the 
carriers of literatures. Literatures in turn are embodiments 


of the national history of the peoples who produced them. 
Literatures are to society what individual memory is to 
each one of us. It makes relatively little difference, there- 
fore, how superior some other language may be in its vocabu- 
lary and in its grammatical forms; the vernacular of a 
people will tend to survive because of that which it carries 
in the way of traditions and popular ideals. 

We find ourselves, accordingly, confronted with a task 
which is doubly difficult when we turn to the discussion of 
language. We are dealing with an institution that is at 
once universal and particular. It is universal in the sense 
that in some form it is absolutely essential to all mental 
operations; it is particular in the sense that there are a 
great many different forms in which this institution appears. 

The selection of suitable illustrations which can be made 
the basis of a systematic psychology of language as a social 
institution is for the reasons cited a complicated task. For- 
tunately the labor required has been performed by one of 
the leading minds of the generation which has just passed. 
Wilhelm Wundt, the great German psychologist, devoted 
the later years of his productive life to a series of volumes 
on what he called Voelkerpsychologie, or the psychology of 
peoples. 1 The first two volumes of this monumental work 
contain a minute analysis of language. Following in the 
main Wundt's teachings, we may adopt his examples and 
his conclusions as the basis of a number of generalizations 
which will carry forward our understanding of intellectual 

The most primitive languages are those which resemble 
in structure gesture language, a mode of expression which 
we know to be simpler than speech. That gesture language 

1 WUNDT, WILHELM Voelkerpsychologie; Erster Band, Die Sprache. 
Erster Theil, pp. xv + 627, Zweiter Theil, pp. x + 644, Leipzig, Wilhelm 
Engelmann, 1900. 


is of a lower level than are other modes of communication is 
attested by the fact that it is resorted to by anyone who is 
driven to seek a medium of communication for which he 
has no preparation in past experience. Thus if one is lost 
in a strange country and must communicate with men who 
do not understand one's words, the resort to gestures is 
natural and immediate. 

The characteristic fact with regard to gesture language 
is its directness and intimate connection with concrete ob- 
jects. One points to the object referred to if it is present, 
or outlines a picture of it if it is not in sight. One has to 
forego discussion of abstract notions except in so far as ob- 
jects or acts of a depictable type will suggest such notions. 
A striking example of the concrete character of gestures even 
when they express abstract ideas can be borrowed from 
the language of the Dakota Indians. When the word 
"truth" is to be expressed, the index finger is pointed from 
the lips directly forward. The gesture might be translated 
"straight talk." When, on the other hand, the idea of 
"falsehood" is to be expressed, the index finger is moved 
to the right or left across the lips so as to express the idea 
of "oblique talk." It is an interesting evidence of the close 
relation of this mode of expression to direct experience that 
the form of gesture used by the Dakota Indians is the same 
as that employed by deaf mutes in Europe. 

The grammar of gesture language, like its vocabulary, is 
altogether concrete. If one wants to say "the tall strong 
man" in gesture language, the first sign to be used must 
represent the man, not his attributes. The attributes have 
nothing to which they can attach themselves if they are 
depicted before the object to which they belong. 

As it is with gesture language, so also is it with the sim- 
plest known languages. The words of these simple languages, 
such as certain African languages spoken on the Sudan, are 


monosyllabic names of concrete facts in the environment. 
The monosyllabic sounds are in a sense less concrete than 
gestures, but they vary in such a way as to make a direct 
appeal to the senses and are to this extent both natural and 
direct. Thus if a certain sound means "large," the same 
sound spoken at a different pitch means "small." "Large" 
and "small" are thus treated as parts of a single series. 
"There far away" is a low tone; "there at some distance" 
is a tone of middle pitch; and "right here" is a high tone. 
Even such contrasted ideas as "sweet" and "bitter," or 
"passive receptivity" and "vigorous activity," are ex- 
pressed by changes in pitch. 

In our complex modern speech we sometimes adopt this 
same method of expression. When one is telling fairy stories 
to children, the giants are always spoken of in tones of 
low deep pitch and the fairies are always spoken of in high- 
pitched tones. The same natural antithesis is adopted 
when one addresses large animals and small. No one would 
speak to a horse and a kitten in the same pitch. The varia- 
tions thus retained in highly evolved languages are for the 
most part related to emotional experiences and are to be 
thought of as more like primitive types of expression than 
are the words and sentences used in deliberate discussions. 

The sentence forms, if they may be called such, in simple 
languages are, like those of gesture language, dependent on 
a succession of ideas coupled together without any inflexional 
elements. Each word in such a series gets its final value 
from the total mental picture to which it contributes. There 
is no distinction between noun and verb forms. Indeed, the 
same sound serves now as a noun and again at a later time 
as a verb. 

Some of the shadings of meaning which in highly devel- 
oped languages are provided by inflection are secured in these 
simpler languages by devices which illustrate clearly the 


difficulty of expressing ideas with monosyllabic words. 
Thus when the Togo tribes want to make a distinction of 
tense in their verbs they have to resort to repetitions of the 
same sound. "I eat" is the present tense. "I eat eat" 
means I have eaten. 

Languages of the primitive type are sometimes driven 
to adopt very complex expressions in the effort to find a series 
of words that will cover an idea which is somewhat abstract. 
When the Togos want to express the idea "to bring," they 
have to break it up into its three stages. They say "take 
go give." The steps of the process are here given in 
detail. The bringer must first take up the thing ; he must 
then go with it, and he must finally deliver it. Another ex- 
ample from the same tribe is the expression for the west; 
it is "sun sit place." 

The crudities and inadequacies of primitive languages 
prove that men had to experiment for long ages with the 
processes of thinking before they could refine their methods 
of recording and arranging ideas. Words and sentences 
are not modes of reaction by means of which human beings 
adjust themselves to material surroundings. They are not 
instinctive modes of reaction ; they have to be invented 
and perfected through use. They are the means by which 
members of a social group exchange ideas and through this 
exchange help one another to arrive at clearer and more 
productive sequences of thought. Words more than any 
other social devices are the means by which minds react 
upon themselves and control and refine their own operations. 
Words constitute a world apart from the world of things. 
As men grow expert in making combinations and recom- 
binations in this separate world they find that they can 
prepare for practical manipulations of material realities in 
such a way as to make their actions enormously more 
effective at the same time that they get the advantages of 


economy of time and energy. It requires, however, long 
practice to secure the advantages of a fully evolved system 
of expression. 

The motives for energetic experimentation with language 
are very strong. In addition to the advantages which a 
social group derives from the solidarity that language brings 
to the group and from the mastery of things which results 
from intelligent planning of action, there is an internal mo- 
tive in language itself which makes for improvement. In- 
adequate expression and ambiguous expression create a 
feeling of restlessness on the part of both speaker and audi- 
tor. Under such conditions one of two results will appear. 
Either the deficiency will be tolerated and the people will 
continue through inertia or lack of intelligence to use the 
inadequate language or else invention will be stimulated to 
produce a less ambiguous expression. What has always 
happened in the long run is the latter. Somewhere in the ages 
of human communication, there have always been geniuses 
ready to overcome every ambiguity. These geniuses have 
worked slowly and with cumulative effect. Their motive 
has usually not been a desire to benefit the race, but the 
direct selfish motive of avoiding mistakes. This purely 
utilitarian attitude has, however, accomplished more than 
the individual intended. Because men live together and 
act upon one another, the advantage of a better way of ex- 
pressing ideas has always redounded to the advantage of 
those who heard the expression as well as of him who devised 
it. The effect of personal effort has thus been carried over 
to the group. 

Some of the directions in which inventive genius worked 
in developing language may be enumerated. First, the 
number of expressions for different objects and different 
qualities had to be very greatly increased. An example 
taken from modern life will serve to illustrate the point. 


Most men have a very meager color vocabulary. This fact 
reflects the ordinary masculine attitude toward shades of 
color. Women, on the other hand, being more devoted to 
the use of colors for purposes of personal adornment need 
to have a much larger stock of names with which to dis- 
criminate the fine distinctions which they find important. 
They exercise their genius, therefore, in inventing color 
names and what is more they cultivate a fluent mastery of 
these names and of the ideas which they represent which is 
altogether incomprehensible to the masculine mind. 

Another striking illustration of the method of enriching 
one's stock of words and thereby guiding all future thinking 
can be derived from the history of the invention of the word 
"gas." The Dutch chemist, Van Helmont, working in his 
laboratory in the seventeenth century found it desirable to 
distinguish that form of matter which is not liquid or solid, 
and so he used this new word. He said that it was suggested 
to his mind by a Greek word which is, however, different 
in form. 

When the world was young, the opportunity for inventing 
new words must have been unlimited. Even in that far- 
away age, however, the inventor's task was less than half 
accomplished when he had emitted the new sound. Before 
he could regard his task as complete, he must induce his 
neighbors to use the sound as he had used it. Here again 
we may draw on modern experience. The child playing 
in the sand invents a word for the pebbles that fill its hand. 
The new word is "pocos." Does society adopt this word 
because it has been duly invented? Not at all. Society 
has an expression of its own for the designation of pebbles, 
and it does not look with favor on the exercise of further 
inventive genius. So the child's word "pocos" lingers for 
a time in the tolerant memory of the immediate family 
and then passes into oblivion. 


Where society was made up of persons of different levels 
of distinction, the invention and selection of words were 
obviously the prerogative of the upper classes. Indeed, the 
upper classes were those who more than the lower classes 
needed the larger equipment of sounds in order to carry on 
their more elaborate modes of thought. The thinking and 
the vocabularies of the common man followed those of his 
leader. It has ever been so with social institutions. It 
was not long since in our generation that the word " molly- 
coddle" came into common use by the same method. 

The period of sheer invention of words is past. If a new 
idea turns up these days and needs a verbal label, we usually 
go back to the languages of antiquity and borrow a com- 
bination of sounds that approximate in their meaning the 
new idea. Our vocabularies are thus increased with little 
expenditure of mental energy. 

In the early days of the race the procedure was different. 
Invention was necessary in the full sense of the term because 
there were no languages of earlier date from which to borrow. 
Still it cannot be assumed that the earliest word makers 
set themselves consciously at the task of invention. It must 
be assumed rather that there was something natural in what 
they did, something so spontaneous that the whole tribe 
would follow the example of the inventor because the word 
suited their natures as well as that of the first user. 

Wundt has brought together a long array of facts to prove 
that the earliest words invented by the race are those in 
which the organs of speech make a natural movement from 
which the sound flows as a secondary rather than a primary 
consequence. What he means can be illustrated by such 
an English word as "zigzag." The movement of the tongue 
in producing this word is in a very direct sense an imitation 
of the idea expressed. The sound comes to have meaning 
because in making it the tongue puts one in the zigzag at- 


titude. There are other examples such as the words ' ' crack ' ' 
and " explosion. " The naturalness of these sounds is readily 
recognized, but it comes from the muscular sensations which 
the making of the sounds induces. 

It is a fact of human nature which the poets have always 
recognized that the sound and the pronunciation of words 
can be made to comport with meaning in a way which is 
much more subtle than we usually recognize when we think 
of words as symbols of ideas. Tennyson was a master of 
such combinations. Read the following lines from his 
Lotos-Eaters and note the way in which the sounds of the 
words fit into the spirit of the poem. 

In the afternoon they came unto a land 

In which it seemed always afternoon. 

All round the coast the languid air did swoon, 

Breathing like one that hath a weary dream. 

Full-faced above the valley stood the moon ; 

And like a downward smoke, the slender stream 

Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem. 

The foregoing discussion of the way in which words orig- 
inated will prevent us from falling into the misconception 
that language is chiefly a series of sound impressions. Lan- 
guage has to be produced and therefore can be fully ex- 
plained only when it is realized that man made words as an 
expression of his indirect social reaction to the world in 
which he lived. It is a well-known fact of the history of 
language that words which imitate natural sounds, such as 
' ' bow-wow ' ' f or " dog, ' ' are relatively late. It was only after 
man had learned the art of speech and was well drilled in 
its uses that he began to pick up by imitation the sound- 
words which his environment suggested. The earliest 
words are all reactions explicable as expressions of human 
attitudes, not as sound imitations. 


Perhaps the most striking examples which can be cited 
in further confirmation of such statements are the words 
which children first use. The first words in all infant speech 
are such words as "pa-pa" and "ma-ma." In all languages 
these words recur with some variations in the consonant 
elements. The interesting point for our discussion is that 
these words are natural only in the sense that they issue 
from the infant as the easiest sounds to produce. The 
meanings attached to these early efforts of infancy are 
not derived from the child's intention. They come rather 
from the child's adult attendants. The parents have learned 
the value of words and urge on the child who contributes 
the sounds, certain interpretations which are adopted by the 
whole group and turn the natural sounds into conventional 

The efforts of primitive men to build up vocabularies 
adequate to the world in which they lived must have led 
very early to the invention of enough words to tax the mem- 
ory of speakers and listeners. The condition which is here 
referred to became all the more acute because primitive 
man's constant devotion to concrete facts made it extremely 
clumsy for him to express some of the ideas which soon be- 
came essential to his thinking. Recurring to the example 
given in an earlier paragraph where it was stated that the 
idea of bringing required the use of three expressions equiva- 
lent to the ideas "take-go-give/' we see how the cumber- 
someness of primitive language would begin to impede rather 
than facilitate thought. The cumbersomeness of early lan- 
guage due to the great variety of responses to concrete 
situations had to be overcome through long ages of use 
during which various devices were invented for simplifying 
and systematizing expression. In this process of perfecting 
language we can trace, as in the first invention of words, the 
operation of certain laws of mental life. 


In order to illustrate what is meant by the statement that 
language is systematized and simplified let us consider some 
of the obvious facts about our own forms of words. Take 
all the words ending in er and or which refer to persons who 
are agents of various types of performance. Such words 
as "banker," "driver," "reaper," "actor," "confessor," are 
all alike in their general reference to persons who do some- 
thing. The suffixes er and or can be traced back to early 
periods of the Teutonic and Latin languages. They show 
that whenever the minds of users of words are in the general 
attitude of thinking of persons, there is a tendency for ex- 
pressions to take on a common form. It is not to be assumed 
that people started using the er and or endings with the con- 
scious purpose of systematizing their language. Minds tend 
to associate ideas which are related and will bring this 
tendency into operation without being explicitly aware of its 
existence. The common sound factor is a natural device of 
mental economy. 

Sometimes the common sound element in words of cog- 
nate meaning is much more clearly recognized than in the 
examples just cited. Thus the ending ed has come to be ac- 
cepted as the mark of the past tense of verbs. A moment's 
consideration of the verbs of English make it perfectly evi- 
dent that the device of ending past tenses with the same 
letter is relatively modern. The oldest verbs in the language 
are those which the grammarians call strong or irregular 
verbs ; they show by their form that our ancestors made a 
wholly different sound when the situation changed from the 
present to the past. The past tense of the verb "to go" is 
one of these ancient forms. The various forms of the an- 
cient verb "to be" illustrate the same fact. Intermediate 
forms, which are not as irregular as "went" and "was" but 
are not regular, are almost innumerable. For example, 
"swim" and "swam," "have" and "had," "fly" and 


"jSew," "buy" and "bought/' are enough alike to keep 
the mind fixed in each case on the same kind of an act, but 
different enough to make it clear that the situations referred 
tp have elements which distinguish them. 

The slow approximations of words of like order to com- 
mon forms are illustrated again by the differences between 
the positive and comparative forms of ancient adjectives and 
by the similarity in structure of positives and comparatives 
of recent origin. The comparatives of such old adjectives as 
"good" and "bad" have no resemblance whatsoever to the 
positive forms. A case of what might be called double usage 
is seen in such pairs of words as "large" and "huge," 
which are wholly different in sound and structure, and 
"large" and "very large," where the common element is ex- 
plicitly brought out. 

All these examples show that languages have in their 
long history been rendered more usable by being systema- 
tized. The psychological law that is here at work may be 
expressed by saying that words which involve the same 
fundamental idea tend to take on the same form. This 
process of relating similars goes on whether the psycholog- 
ical impulse is explicitly recognized or not. 

The history of language is replete with illustrations of 
the operation of this law. One of the ideas which man very 
early had to mark with distinctive sounds was the idea of 
the plural. Here, again, our own language yields abundant 
illustrations of the divergence of the ancient method of 
making plurals from the uniform modern method of adding 
an s to the singular. "Man" and "men," "child" and 
"children," "ox" and "oxen" are all examples of the primi- 
tive tendency to parallel differences in thought by differ- 
ences in words. A study of primitive languages adds a long 
list of devices which were employed while men were experi- 
menting with the art of making plurals. One very natural 


method was that of making the same sound twice to indicate 
a plural. Thus the Sahaptin Indians say pitin for girl and 
pipitin for the plural. In Samoa the natives say fulu for 
hair, &ndfulufulu for the plural. 

There are cases where the more primitive word is the 
plural rather than the singular. Modern examples of this 
kind are to be found in such collective words as "army" 
and "mob." Here the unit out of which the collective 
group is made can be designated only by some phrase which 
tends to break up the collective whole. If we want to relate 
the word " soldier" to the word "army," we must use some 
such combination as "private in the army." Wundt's 
comment on this situation is as follows : 

It is characteristic of much primitive thinking that plurality is 
not thought of as a sum of individual objects but as a collective 
whole. The same word in such cases sometimes serves for both 
the individual and the group, the special significance being left 
to be inferred but without any special verbal expression. Natu- 
rally such usage will be most common when the words refer to in- 
animate objects which are of minor value. There are African lan- 
guages in which the nouns are plural throughout and can be used 
as referring to singular objects only by adding some form of limit- 
ing suffix. The cases here referred to are paralleled by others in 
which the singular becomes plural by adding a prefix of a type 
indicating collective reference to a group. A combination of the 
two forms of expression appears in the language of the Bari negro 
tribes in which those objects which naturally appear in groups and 
are seldom attended to as individuals are spoken of in the collective. 
Such objects are the fingers, flies, bees, and monkeys. The noun 
stem has a singular meaning, on the other hand, in the words " roof," 
"river," "house," "day," "wolf," and the like which designate 
objects commonly attended to as single things. In the case of the 
plural words a singular is made by adding a demonstrative suffix ; 
in the case of singular words a suffix with a broadening significance 
is used in making a plural. 1 

1 WUNDT, WILHELM op. tit., Bd. I, Th. I, pp. 32-33. 


Leaving the devices for making plural nouns, we may 
consider next the facts of inflection known as case forms. 
Our own language is so little supplied with case forms that 
it furnishes no adequate series of examples to illustrate this 
particular device of expressing ideas. We have a possessive 
case which has been gradually reduced to such uniformity 
that it is a mere vestige of earlier more elaborate forms. 
The abandonment for the most part of case forms in English 
represents the completion of a long cycle of language ex- 
periments which began curiously enough without case forms 
and has passed through stages where these forms were very 

The first languages, as has been pointed out, were with- 
out structural elements. Words were monosyllables. The 
Mande negro tribes are even now at this stage. If they 
want to express any of the ideas which are expressed in the 
highly developed languages by the locative case, they com- 
bine words which are wholly independent. Thus if they 
want to say that a thing is " behind 77 another, they men- 
tion the two objects and put between them the word for 
"back." If they want to express the idea " above," they 
use the word "air" or "heavens" ; if they want to express 
the idea "under," they use the word "earth" or "ground." 
We see in these combinations language at the stage where 
all ideas are concrete and expressed only through direct 
reference to the observed facts of the environment. 

The next stage of development is one in which spatial 
relations began to be thought of in a more abstract way and 
the sounds that express these relations lost their direct ref- 
erence to objects and were used as symbols of pure relation- 
ship. Abstract particles expressing position are known to 
us in English in such words as: "on," "under," "above," 
"below." The isolation of these words of relationship was 
the work of long ages of language evolution. Before the 


isolation could be accomplished in full, the stage of case 
inflection had to be lived through. Case inflection appears 
in the fact that when a noun is to be used as part of a phrase 
expressing some relation, such as that of location, it will 
be modified in structure so as to distinguish it from the 
same word when it is used in a sentence which expresses 
another relationship, such as ownership. It is a further 
fact of language history that the idea of location usually 
is not specific enough without the use of another word dis- 
tinct from the noun to specify the particular location. Thus 
it comes about that Latin both inflects its nouns and puts 
prepositions before them in order to express exactly the 
relations of space. 

The number of case forms which have been used in the 
history of languages is very great. As languages matured, 
the more significant relations came to clearer recognition, 
and incidental relations were left to be expressed by separate 
words. The languages of the Greeks and Romans had 
reached the stage of a few well-defined cases and many prep- 
ositions. The language of Germany reduces somewhat the 
number of cases. English has, with the exception of the 
possessive ending, come to the expression of all of the rela- 
tions by the use of separate words. 

The difference between the separate words used by Eng- 
lish and those which were used at the beginning of language 
development as illustrated by the language of the Mande 
negroes, cited in an earlier paragraph, is that our English 
prepositions are wholly abstract. They have been devel- 
oped for the express purpose of making clear a relation rather 
than an object. 

English must substitute some device to make up for the 
loss of the advantage which inflected languages have in the 
fact that they use a characteristic sign both at the end and at 
the beginning of a phrase. This double use of a characteris- 


tic expression insures the phrase against ambiguity. Eng- 
lish uses order of words as a substitute for inflection. To 
make this case clear let us consider the different ways in 
which English and German express a locative idea. When 
a German speaker wants to say that something is going on 
in the house, he changes the forms of the article and of 
the word " house " from the nominative to the locative. He 
says " in dem Hause" The nominative of the article is das 
and of the noun Haus. The German locative is furthermore 
introduced, as indicated, by the preposition "in." In Eng- 
lish the declension forms are lost but the order is retained, 
thus making clear the relation of the noun to the preposi- 
tion without changing the form of the noun. 

The systematization of verbal forms which has been il- 
lustrated in the foregoing paragraphs shows that the con- 
scious associations of men's minds are constantly operating 
to determine the forms of language at the same time that 
words are guiding thought. It is not alone in matters of 
form that the operation of gradually changing associations 
can be traced ; the same kind of development takes place with 
regard to meaning. New meanings attach to familiar words 
and new words appear in response to the need for more 
adequate methods of expression. 

The history of literature and language is replete with ex- 
amples that show the intimate parallelism between expanding 
thought and corresponding change in expression. There are 
certain lines in Hamlet which are usually misunderstood by 
twentieth-century readers because the printed words of the 
text have remained unchanged while the processes of mental 
evolution have gone on and have completely changed the 
mental associations attached to the words which Shakespeare 
used. Hamlet has been discussing with himself the possibili- 
ties of suicide and comes to the consideration of the uncer- 
tainties that lie beyond death. It is these uncertainties, he 


says, which make "us rather bear those ills we have than fly 
to others that we know not of." Now comes the line often 
misunderstood. Hamlet says : "Thus conscience does make 
cowards of us all." The interpretation which usually arises 
in a present-day reader's mind is not that intended by 
Shakespeare at all. Shakespeare did not mean to say that 
most of us are guilty of some wrong-doing somewhere in our 
lives and therefore afraid of the future and its possible 
punishments. The word "conscience" meant to Shake- 
speare about what the words " thoughtful meditation " or 
" conscious consideration " mean to a modern user of English. 
If one looks up the matter , one finds that "conscience" in 
Elizabethan English conveyed just these ideas. Thus Hobbs, 
the philosopher, writes : "The same passion (for glory) may 
proceed not from any conscience of our own action, but 
from fame and trust of others." Stubbs, writing on medieval 
and modern history, says : "The characteristic of the long 
medieval centuries, the conscience that war is justifiable 
only by law ..." What Hamlet says, therefore, is that 
we are all prone to think matters over before taking the 
risks of a future which we do not know, and as we consider 
all the hazards involved, we have less and less courage to 
take the final step. 

The example is a striking case of a gradual psychological 
change which has detached from a word the interpretation 
which earlier generations associated with it, and has sub- 
stituted for the older meaning a new and more specialized 
meaning. There has been a shift, in other words, in the 
mental world, and this shift makes of the word " conscience " 
a new fact in human life. 

The history of English is full of examples of words that 
have changed their psychological relations and have gradually 
come to have meanings that are sinister. One of the modern 
examples of this is the word "graft." The verb "to graft" 


meant at first merely to work. The specialized meaning of 
digging seems to be implied in the Anglo-Saxon form from 
which the modern word is descended. Early colloquial 
English used the word in such questions as " Where are you 
grafting?" meaning " Where do you live or work?" From 
this perfectly respectable beginning the word has gradually 
gone down hill. The work of which the grafter is accused 
to-day is not of the general sort originally expressed ; it is 
of a sort which fills the name " grafter" with opprobrium. 

Changes in the meanings of words of the type illustrated 
in the foregoing examples can be grouped under a number 
of general statements. Let us consider some of them. 

First ; when two objects serve analogous functions, there 
is a tendency to use the same word to describe them. Thus 
we speak of a "foot of the mountain" or the "foot of a lad- 
der." We speak of the "mouth of a river" and the "neck 
of a bottle." We have such verb forms as the "river run- 
ning into another" and a "reputation falling." In each of 
these cases the minds of the speaker and listener set aside 
all concrete relationships and for purely psychological rea- 
sons bring together situations that are alike only in the 

Second, words which express feelings are readily trans- 
ferred; thus one speaks of a "bitter disappointment" or 
a "burdensome task." In both these cases purely subjec- 
tive attitudes are expressed as belonging to situations which 
in reality have no sensory qualities of the sort described 
but do arouse attitudes like those attaching to the experi- 
ences referred to. A disappointment has, of course, no 
taste, but it is associated with a particular kind of feeling 
which is not unlike that of an unpleasant taste. 

Third, a word brought into various contexts will take on 
in each case a particular shade of meaning. The word 
"country" conveys one idea in the phrase, "My country, 'tis 


of thee" and an entirely different meaning in the phrase 
' i country cousin. ' ' The word ' ' right ' ' stands for one meaning 
when contrasted with "left/' and a wholly different meaning 
when coupled with such a word as "civil" or "political." 

Fourth, words which express certain kinds of facts are 
sometimes retained with changed meanings when the con- 
ditions of civilization change to such an extent that the 
original connotations are no longer appropriate. Our word 
"arrive" is a striking illustration of this kind of a change. 
It is derived from the Latin preposition ad meaning "to" 
and the word ripa meaning "shore." Under the conditions 
of Mediterranean maritime life, the only arrivals were those 
who came in boats and landed on the shore. As conditions of 
travel changed, a word was needed to indicate the arrival 
of travelers by other than water routes. The sound was 
retained which had served in the first situation, and the 
meaning was altered to suit the new mode of life. 

It is certainly impossible to review such facts as have been 
detailed about language without carrying away a vivid 
impression of the enormous amount of human ingenuity 
which has been expended in its improvement. One is 
similarly impressed when one thinks of the fact that each 
individual born into the world is obliged to acquire anew the 
complex forms of behavior which are necessary in order to 
use language. A type of action which consumes to this 
extent the time and energy of a race will surely leave its im- 
pression on the race itself. In dealing with language we are 
not dealing with some trivial addition to man's repertoire of 
behavior. We cannot be satisfied to think of language as 
a late addition to the instinctive tendencies ; it is a new and 
major aspect of human life. 

The relation of language to civilization and to individual 
experience can be described in terms which are familiar to 
the reader of this book. Language is a social institution. 


It has evolved through the cooperation of countless genera- 
tions. It becomes a guide to the thought and effort of 
every member of the race. The child strives to become a 
part of the social group by mastering this conventional 
mode of behavior. In doing so he has his attention turned 
now in this direction, now in that. Each word which he 
learns controls for the moment his thought. Each sen- 
tence that he hears shapes for him a succession of ideas and 
holds them in a certain order. After the individual has 
been under the influence of language for a time, he will 
begin to do most of his thinking by using the distinctions 
and relations which society has given him through its es- 
tablished modes of communication. Language is a mode 
of mental procedure. It is not something which we use from 
time to time ; it is the method of our whole mental exist- 
ence. An individual can no more get away from language 
than he can empty his mind of ideas. 

Perhaps the import of these statements can be made 
clearer by referring to science and its terminology. When 
we begin to think scientifically about an animal, we find that 
it is necessary to distinguish between the parts of the ani- 
maPs body. We find we must note certain stages in the 
animal's growth. We must describe certain of its habits 
of life and its contacts with other beings in the world. For 
each observation which we make we find it desirable to have 
some kind of a mental marker. A series of markers for ideas 
about animals has been devised in zoological terminology. 
The more specific this terminology, the clearer will be our 
thinking. Teachers, therefore, take great pains to drill 
students in the exact and discriminating use of a specific ter- 
minology. Is all this drilling undertaken merely in order 
that the observer may tell someone else about what he has 
been thinking ? Certainly not. The exact terminology is a 
guarantee that the one who possesses it will turn his think- 


ing directly and with full regard to detail to those centers 
of observation which study has shown to be important. A 
scientific term is a guide to thinking ; it is an instrument of 

More than this, general scientific terms hold together the 
results of long trains of research. When the zoologist uses 
the term " vertebrate," he is not merely calling attention 
to the fact that the animal has a backbone. He is intro- 
ducing his students to the long line of scientific studies which 
preceded the establishment of the final classification to 
which the science of animal life has come as a result of its 
investigations. The term " vertebrate" is a carrier of a 
great scientific generalization. Words carry in epitomized 
form all the rich body of associations which entered into 
their first development. 

To be sure, there are serious hazards involved in the in- 
direct forms of thinking which words make possible. There 
is the danger to which attention was called in the example 
borrowed from Shakespeare's Hamlet, that in the course of 
years the mental complex aroused by certain words will 
undergo radical change. There are other like possibilities. 
The teacher may give the student a word which is full of 
meaning derived from a long succession of scientific inves- 
tigations ; to the teacher the word may convey all the rich 
content that has been loaded into it during the history of 
science, but the student may repeat the sound and have 
little or none of the stock of experience which the sound is 
intended to carry. The same sound may have wholly dif- 
ferent values in two such cases. 

What has been said with regard to scientific terminology 
can be enlarged upon when we begin to think of other sys- 
tems of experience which the race has accumulated. Con- 
sider, for example, the importance of words in recording 
national history. Since the earliest dawn of human life, men 


have gathered about the campfire to hear of the exploits 
of their heroes. The story-teller and the bard have con- 
tributed through words to a social pride and social deter- 
mination to make further progress which have been of the 
greatest significance in directing the lives of individuals and 
groups. The development of national pride and group 
solidarity would be impossible if there were no common 
elements in the experiences of individuals. Language sup- 
plies common elements of thought by compelling in- 
dividuals to go through mental processes which are alike. 
Language is not merely a vehicle for the transmission of 
ideas from mind to mind; it is a compelling institution 
which forces men to become alike in their associations of 
ideas. The learning of a word is a process of socializing the 
individual and of making his conscious world like that of 
others who use the same language. 

We see from such considerations as these why language is 
so fundamental to society. In order that men may live to- 
gether in groups they must have common ideas on all essen- 
tial items. Common interests and joint modes of action 
are essential to the very existence of a community. Social 
unity can be secured only when some method is provided 
for holding individuals to the same inner patterns of thought 
and desire. Animals live in groups at times when some ex- 
ternal circumstance forces them together, or at times when 
some strong common motive of action coincides with indi- 
vidual desires. A drought is said to drive all kinds of wild 
animals to live for a time under a natural truce at the water- 
ing place. A pack will hunt together and join in defending 
one of their number against an enemy, but these animal 
groups are not communities. Primitive man found the 
secret of a more permanent union. In order to effect this 
union he had to find a means of making its members alike 
in their inner desires and experiences. That device for 


producing a common way of thinking was developed in 
language. By constantly keeping the members of the tribe 
in communication and by gradually enriching the vocabu- 
lary which records common ideas and purposes, man has 
controlled the thinking of all the members of the group 
until now the ideas and ideals of a nation compel the atten- 
tion of every newcomer and guide his or her thinking to 
the point where it is like that of those with whom the in- 
dividual lives and associates. 

We have spoken of a nation's history. Consider in like 
terms the folklore and the literature which express the pecul- 
iar ambitions and aspirations of a given people. Think 
of the effect which is produced on the minds of the children 
of a family by the constant reiterations of certain modes 
of thought. These are not examples of trivial or incidental 
facts ; they are examples of the way in which through lan- 
guage common modes of thinking have been cultivated and 
common modes of action have been induced. 

Professor McDougall, to whose works on social psychology 
we have had occasion to refer in earlier chapters, has contrib- 
uted in his recent book, entitled The Group Mind, a num- 
ber of observations which are of interest in this connection. 
In the main, McDougall is convinced in this as in his earlier 
work that the problems of national life are to be solved 
by a consideration of the inherited equipment of its mem- 
bers. To his mind certain nationalities which have a fun- 
damental group of mental traits are likely because of these 
traits to become leaders in the world. Yet even while de- 
fending this thesis and while neglecting altogether to under- 
take any analysis of such social institutions as language, 
McDougall is driven by his survey of the historical facts 
to make statement after statement which confirms the 
position that is defended in this chapter. 

We may quote at length from one of McDougalPs chapters : 


Let us consider now very briefly in relation to the life of a nation 
a second essential condition of all collective mental life namely, 
that the individuals shall be in free communication with one an- 
other. This is obviously necessary to the formation of national 
mind and character. It is only through an immense development 
of the means of communication, especially the printing press, the 
railway and the telegraph, that the modern Nation-State has be- 
come possible, and has become the dominant type of political or- 
ganisms. So familiar are we with this type that we are apt to 
identify the Nation and the State and to regard the large Nation- 
State as the normal type of State and of Nation, forgetting that 
its evolution was not possible before the modern period. 

In the ancient world, the City-State was the dominant type of 
political organism; and to Plato and Aristotle any other type 
seemed undesirable, if not impossible. For they recognized that 
collective deliberation and volition are essential to the true State. 
Aristotle, trying to imagine a vast city, remarks "But a city, 
having such vast circuit, would contain a nation rather than a 
state, like Babylon. " The translator there uses the word " nation, " 
not in the modern sense, but rather as we use " people " to denote a 
population of common stock not organized to form a nation. 
The limits of the political organism capable of a collective mental 
life were rightly held to be set by the number of citizens who could 
live so close together as to meet in one place to discuss all public 
affairs by word of mouth. 

The great empires of antiquity were not nations ; they had no 
collective mental life. Although the Roman Empire, in the course 
of its long and marvelous history, did succeed in generating in 
almost all its subject peoples a certain sentiment of pride in and 
attachment to the Empire, it cannot be said to have welded them 
into one nation ; for, in spite of the splendid system of roads and 
of posting, communication between the parts was too difficult and 
slow to permit the reciprocal influences essential to collective life. 
As in all the ancient empires, the parts were held together only 
by a centralized, despotic, executive organization ; there was no 
possibility of collective deliberation and volition. 


All through history there has obviously been some correlation 
between the size of political organisms and the degree of develop- 
ment of means of communication. At the present time those 
means have become so highly developed that the widest spaces of 
land and sea no longer present any insuperable limits to the size 
of nations ; and the natural tendency for the growth of the larger 
states at the expense of the smaller, by the absorption of the latter, 
seems to be increasingly strong. It seems not unlikely that almost 
the whole population of the world will shortly be included in five 
immense States the Russian or Slav, the Central European, the 
British, the American, and the Yellow or East Asiatic State. The 
freedom of communication between the countries of Europe is now 
certainly sufficient to allow of their forming a single nation, if 
other conditions, such as diversities of racial type and of historical 
sentiments, would permit it. 1 

Later McDougall describes in the following terms the 
problem of England in building up an empire : 

To-day England is contemplating a task never before attempted, 
the fusing into one nation of the peoples of the mother-country 
and her distant colonies. Whether or no she will succeed depends 
upon whether the enormously increased facilities of communica- 
tion can overcome the principal effects of physical barriers that 
we have noted namely, lack of intermarriage and divergence of 
occupation with the consequent divergence of mental type and 
interests. The task is infinitely more difficult than the establish- 
ment of such an Empire as the Roman ; not because the distances 
are greater, but because the 5 - union must take the form of nation- 
hood, because it must take the form of a collective mind and not 
that of a merely executive organisation. But, in the considera- 
tions which have shown us that membership in and devotion to a 
smaller group is by no means adverse to membership in and devo- 
tion to a larger group, we have ground for believing that the task 
is not impossible of achievement. 2 

1 MCDOUGALL, WILLIAM The Group Mind, pp. 181-183 ; G. P. Putnam's 
Sons, 1920. 2 Ibid., p. 185. 


These statements undoubtedly express profound truth. 
One can hardly overlook the fact, however, that they seem 
to deal with communication as though it were possible with- 
out long antecedent preparation of the communicating 
minds. McDougall seems to say that newspapers and the 
telegraph are important facts. The more fundamental view 
is that newspapers and the telegraph are outgrowths of a 
gradually growing demand on the part of collective groups 
for intimate and uninterrupted contacts. These devices for 
enriching human associations were invented by men who 
have learned to desire association and have enjoyed the ad- 
vantages which are derived from less complete methods of 
communication. It is not newspapers and the telegraph 
which make a nation, but community of interest and like 

Communication is not something objective and superficial. 
A word cannot pick up an idea and carry it over to another 
mind. Ideas become effective in a group only in so far as all 
the members of the group have learned forms of thought 
which are common. The slow evolution of social units has 
been due to the necessity of making men over into collec- 
tions of minds capable of common modes of thought. Lan- 
guage does not accomplish this task without the aid of many 
other institutions. The form of government under which 
people live, their religious beliefs, their modes of dress, their 
types of food, and their occupations must be gradually 
brought to conform to unified patterns before there can be 
complete mutual understanding and sympathy. But none 
of these secondary institutions can be perfected except as 
there is a ready means of general expression of ideas. Lan- 
guage is the fundamental institution. Men start with a 
few words and phrases and as soon as they master these they 
deposit the results of their common thinking and common 
behavior in institutions such as religious belief or customs 


of courtesy. With this start they invent new verbal dis- 
tinctions and work them over until by a long series of social 
compromises the group reaches manifold common ways of 
thinking and speaking. 

In this process of gradual assimilation of mind to mind, 
written words to which the reader may come back again 
and again serve one purpose, while the intense expressions 
of some orator making a plea for public adoption of a new 
idea serve a somewhat different purpose. Either instru- 
ment for the promotion of social solidarity requires time 
in order to produce its full effect. 

There are barriers to the establishment of common modes 
of thought. Some of these are material, such as distance ; 
some of them are psychological, such as rigidly fixed patterns 
of thought which have been built up through long ages of 
isolation. Communication can in the long run overcome 
these obstacles if it is persistently cultivated, but communi- 
cation is not in itself the final fact. Communication must 
set up common modes of mental reaction. This is the rea- 
son why in the last analysis language should be thought of 
as a system of social control. This is the reason why the 
history of language should be studied not merely for the 
forms of words but also for the ideas which are associated 
with the words. 

Some discussion of education as the device for cultivating 
common ideas belongs in this chapter, though it will be 
necessary to postpone to a later part of the book a full dis- 
cussion of the institutions of education. Nations have ex- 
pended no small part of their resources in educating the 
younger generation in those practices and ideas which are 
necessary for the preservation of the group. The first edu- 
cation was practical ; the Indian boy was trained in the art 
of hunting; the Spartan boy was trained for war; but 
gradually the center of attention in the educational system 


of nations has shifted from the practical arts of hunting and 
war to language, which has come to be the center of the 
modern school system. The reason for this is apparent 
from what has been said. The preservation of the modern 
nation is not a matter merely of food getting and defense 
against enemies; it is far more a problem of developing 
unity of ideas and solidarity of beliefs and ambitions. It 
is much more important for Americans to understand pub- 
lic policies and to think alike than to be able to perform any 
particular acts of skill. Language and other social institu- 
tions have produced a kind of cooperative life which is so 
utterly dependent on community of ideas that the major 
energy of society in its organization of education is given to 
the promotion of community of ideas rather than to the 
cultivation of the trades, however important they may be. 

One final comment naturally suggests itself at the con- 
clusion of this chapter. Language in its current changes is 
an impressive example of human evolution. We do not 
need to go back to the origin of language to discover what 
is meant by human evolution. We can very properly infer 
what kinds of changes were going on in far-away periods 
by tracing the processes which are going on now. The 
accumulation of new ideas and the marking of these ideas 
by words and phrases are daily experiences in the lives of all 
nations and individuals. The simplification and systema- 
tization of the vast collections of ideas which are in the 
possession of the group are going on under our direct obser- 
vation. The influence of individual minds on the thinking 
of the group and the powerful influence of the group in direct- 
ing the thinking and behavior of the individual are illus- 
trated in everyday life and require no antiquarian research 
to reveal the methods and centers of emphasis of human 

At the risk of wearing out the reader's patience, but with 


a view to keeping the unique character of human evolution 
constantly in the foreground, the conclusions of earlier chap- 
ters may be reiterated in the presence of the facts derived 
from a study of language. Human evolution is not a matter 
of instincts. Out of instinct has grown something new. 
Gregariousness among the animals is not an instrument of 
perfect control of the individual as are language and other 
social institutions. Language has as far superseded gre- 
gariousness as the technical instruments of modern civili- 
zation have superseded teeth and claws. 

Human evolution is by no means at an end ; indeed, the 
most significant stages of the process may certainly be 
thought of as lying in the present and the future. Up to 
this time the race has been engaged in perfecting a method 
of adaptation. This method is so radically different from 
anything which has preceded it in the history of the animal 
kingdom that upward movement has been delayed by fre- 
quent interruptions and backslidings. The methods of 
adaptation have finally reached a fairly high state of per- 
fection. Language and science and technical discovery 
are now ready to be used with a degree of conscious purpose 
which was impossible at earlier stages of civilization. 

The psychology of civilization is, therefore, not a record of 
past happenings ; it is a study of present-day forces which 
are gathering momentum and are in need of consideration 
in the interest of such guidance as men are ready and able 
to give to their own futures. Civilization is a moving, living 
fact; its elements, which are the institutions that have 
been evolved up to this time by man's genius, are at once 
the products of this evolution and the controls which are 
to direct its further course. 



It is characteristic of the institutions which have been 
considered thus far that they command universal conformity. 
No one can live in modern society without submitting him- 
self in some degree to the industrial and monetary systems. 
The use of number, the adoption of standards of measure- 
ment, and a ready comprehension of spoken and written 
language are requisite to even the most modest degrees of 
success in life. In sharp contrast with one's relation to 
these compelling institutions is one's relation to the fine 
arts. If we consider the art of music, we find that one can 
get on very well in modern social groups with little or no 
appreciation of music and with absolutely no ability to 
participate in the production of the elaborate harmonies to 
which the higher evolutions of the art have attained. 

The contrast becomes even more impressive if we study the 
history of music. In its earliest stages music was distinctly 
a social art. The primitive tribe performed its religious 
rites to the sound of such music as it had learned to produce. 
The primitive work-song is also an example of a method of 
social compulsion which is common among peoples of the 
lower levels of civilization. As music has evolved out of 
these most primitive forms, it has become less and less a 
universally mastered art. It has passed through many 
stages of development and has exhibited many new forms 
and taken on many new applications, and in doing so it has 
lost in some measure its universal social appeal. To some it 



is a source of the highest enjoyment, while to others it is an 
entirely dispensable luxury. This history is almost exactly 
the reverse of that which was uncovered in tracing the evo- 
lution of number or of systems of exchange. There the 
power of the institution over the individual steadily in- 
creases as the institution matures. 

We must seek an explanation of this contrast. We shall 
find it in the fact that the higher levels of musical art appeal 
to the individual's emotions. The emotions are subjective 
and incapable of complete social control. Now and then, 
to be sure, a group can be swayed by a common emotional 
appeal and every individual in the group will be similarly 
moved in his purely subjective experience. Such cases are, 
however, rare ; when they occur, they grow out of accidental 
conditions which create a group sympathy and community 
of emotional anticipation, as when a company is aroused by 
some emergency in national life and is prepared to be im- 
pressed by a national anthem. Even in such cases it is 
to be assumed that there are various shades and types of 
emotional response. The experiences of individuals are 
here very much more variable than are the responses to 
number expressions or even to language. When the com- 
mon emotional preparation is lacking as it is under the 
ordinary circumstances of life, the variability of individual 
responses to music becomes so great that the social char- 
acter of the art is largely if not wholly lost. 

When the art of music was primitive, the possibilities of 
easy participation by every member of the group were almost 
unlimited. With every step upward in its evolution, music 
has left behind some member of the group and finally in its 
perfected forms it is fully appreciated only by those who have 
kept pace in their technical and emotional development with 
the progressing art. 

The fact that anyone can occupy a nonparticipating rela- 


tion to music while he must learn to use money and number 
and language in order to survive in modern society makes 
it perfectly clear that the emotions stand in a relation to 
society wholly different from that held by intellectual ex- 
periences. The emotions are no less real than are the 
facts of number, but they are of a different order. They are 
related to survival in an entirely different way. We shall 
have occasion in several of the subsequent chapters to enter 
into a fuller discussion of the place of the emotions in social 
economy. We shall undertake in this chapter to lay an 
empirical basis for our discussion through a study of the 
art of music. 

The earliest music is inseparably connected with the 
group dance. The group dance in turn can be understood 
as a manifestation of the tendency inherent in the nervous 
organization of all individuals to derive satisfaction from 
rhythmical movements. The successive contraction and 
relaxation of a muscle is physiologically the most wholesome 
method of action of this organ. Any long-continued con- 
traction of a muscle without the relief of relaxation is felt 
as an unpleasant strain. Any long-continued inactivity 
of a muscle leads to an experience of restlessness. The 
natural life of a muscle is that in which a normal succession 
of contractions and relaxations keeps the internal condition 
well-balanced. What is true of the muscles is equally true 
of the nerve cells. They thrive best when they pass through 
a succession of periods of activity and recuperation. The 
dance furnishes an opportunity for these natural physiolog- 
ical successions to take place in the freest possible fashion. 
When the individual is engaged in the pursuit of game or in 
any of those forms of behavior which aim at some definite 
end, the succession of contractions and relaxations is con- 
strained and their period is dictated by external conditions. 
The dance, on the other hand, is controlled by inner im- 


pulses. This is what makes it an art as distinguished from 

Early in the history of the race, the purely personal forms 
of rhythmical action which are natural in moments of ex- 
citement or of joy were welded by social sympathy into group 
performances. One of the first means of establishing social 
uniformity of action is a series of sounds which mark time 
and result in uniform rhythm throughout the whole com- 
pany. Even to-day the clapping of hands is one of the com- 
mon methods of securing social uniformity. Primitive man 
went further in that he adopted a variety of noise-making 
devices as accompaniments of the dance. Two sticks were 
beaten together, or if the dancers were warriors carrying 
shields and spears, these were struck together in unison 
with the dance movements. The first music was nothing 
more than this rhythmical series of noises. As the ears of 
the dancers were stimulated by the sounds, their nervous 
systems were aroused to action in the same tempo and the 
group fell into the same rate of muscular reaction. 

The pleasurable effect of rhythmical sounds and the in- 
terest in making this effect as pronounced as possible led 
primitive man to devote some time and attention to the per- 
fecting of instruments with which to accompany the dance. 
He also associated with his construction of sound-producing 
instruments all of the mythical notions that were character- 
istic of his life. He made drums of various kinds and per- 
sonified them. In each he found an answering spirit. 

The extent to which primitive peoples worship their 
drums is indicated by the following quotations from Row- 
botham's History of Music. 

The great seat of Drum Worship was South America. Even 
at the present day it is to be found in full vitality in the interior 
of Brazil, but a hundred years ago it could be said that "the Drum 
was the only object of worship from the Orinoco to the La Plata." 


This is two-thirds of South America, and as it is more than prob- 
able that Patagonia as we shall see hereafter should be added 
in too, this would make the area of the cult nearly co-equal with 
that of the continent. The precise form of the fetich, though it 
belongs to the genus "Dram," is yet strictly of the Rattle species. 
The Maraca, as it is called, is a hollow gourd, with small stones or 
hard cornseeds inside it, generally the former which rattle when 
it is shaken. It is fixed on a staff, which is stuck in the ground, 
and the people fall down before it and worship it. It is supposed 
to be able to predict the future, and is consulted on all occasions 
of importance, such as the celebration of festivities, or the eve of a 
battle ; and the actions of the people are regulated by the replies 
which the rattle makes. 1 

A modified form of Drum worship obtained through the length 
and breadth of Lapland as late as two hundred years ago so 
little modified, however, as to argue incontestably an anterior 
stage when the pure form of the cult prevailed. Though when we 
first get accounts of the Lapland sorcerers, they had ceased actually 
to worship the Drum, had already learnt that their fetich was some- 
thing weaker than themselves, which might be controlled and 
made to do their bidding, yet the supernatural powers which they 
supposed to dwell in the instrument, and the excessive veneration 
with which they regarded it, clearly point to some antecedent stage 
not unlike the Maraca cult of the Brazilians. 2 

Rowbotham points out the analogy between these savage 
practices and beliefs and the attitude which exists in more 
recent times towards bells. 

The History of the Bell is a perfect counterpart to the History 
of the Drum. And whoever cares to peer into the records of that 
era of naive credulity which we call the Middle Ages shall find 
the same superstitions, which were connected with the Drum, re- 
appearing inconnection with the Bell. He shall read of Bells being 
thought to speak, of Bells thought to be alive, of Bells dressed, and 

1 ROWBOTHAM, JOHN FREDERICK A History of Music, I, pp. 7-8 ; London, 
Triibner and Co., 1885. Ibid., p. 10. 


arrayed with ornaments not unlike the Fetiches we are now con- 
sidering. Maracas could influence the " fertility and sterility of 
the ground," and Bells were rung pro fructibus terrae, " to make a 
good harvest. " The Natchez used rattles to conjure the weather, 
and our own forefathers hung bells in their churches " to break the 
thunderbolt and dispel the storm." The American and Jakutskoi 
medicine men covered their dresses with little rattles in order to 
spread the magic virtue over their persons ; and the medieval 
clergy adorned their copes and tunicles with little bells because there 
was something "canny" in their "tinkling" the "tinnitus" 
was " salutifer " says the monkish biographer of St. Hilary of Aries. 
The drums beaten at Lapp sacrifices may show us well where the 
sacrificing bell of the mass has come from ; and the Healing drums 
of Koreki sorcerers appear again in the handbells that curates used 
to ring in the Visitation of the Sick. 1 

The dance with its accompanying noise reaches a most 
elaborate development among primitive peoples. One 
anthropologist describes his observation of rhythms among 
the Greenlanders. These primitive people become such 
masters of the art of producing rhythms that they can beat 
more than one rhythm at a time. They tap with the feet 
at one rate and with the hands at another. This is a feat 
which requires much training because the natural tendency 
of the nervous system is to act as a unit and to stimulate 
all the motor organs with a single impulse. 

The production of various noise-emitting instruments 
could not go very far without stimulating invention in a 
direction other than that of mere attention to rhythm. The 
different objects used in making noises produced sounds of 
different quality. A rattle made of a hollow gourd produced 
one kind of noise while a hollow log made a wholly different 
kind of noise. Men began to seek out objects which were 
capable of giving variety to their sensory experiences. 

1 Ibid., pp. 17-18. 


Furthermore, as they turned attention to the qualities of 
sounds, they began to cultivate skill in fitting to their vari- 
ous moods the sounds produced by such crude instruments 
as they had. 

The Esquimaux use their Drum " to express their passions by" ; 
the Manganjas use it " to express their joy and grief" the grief 
of a savage no doubt but still the grief of a man, and every bit as 
pure and every bit as true as that which mixes in the civilized 
emotions of ourselves. " Hear my Drum " cries the North Ameri- 
can brave to his absent love, " though you be at the uttermost parts 
of the earth, hear my drum" for he believes he can show the 
depth of his affection by the music of its beating. " Do you under- 
stand what my Drum says? " cries he again in the enthusiasm of the 
Wabeno, for he believes his Drum can utter definite thoughts. 1 

The production of a variety of tones engaged the atten- 
tion of certain primitive peoples to a degree which shows 
how fascinating is the sheer discrimination of sound. The 
Chinese have gone further than have other peoples in this 
respect. A series of passages from Rowbotham will illus- 
trate this matter : 

THE SOUND OF SKIN has eight varieties, and there therefore are 
8 different kinds of Drums, which vary in minute points of con- 
struction, as in having a longer or a fuller barrel, or in general bulk, 
or even in the method of beating, for the 8th variety has two dif- 
ferent names, according as it is struck by the right hand or the 
left. But this 8th variety has another peculiarity ; for while the 
others give the sound of SKIN alone, it qualifies the sound of SKIN 
with the sound of RICE which is a subordinate sound of Nature, 
and does not come into the universal gamut. And this is how the 
Sound of Rice is given. The barrel of the drum is filled with the 
husk of Rice, which has been beaten from the grain in a mortar ; 
and being filled full of this, it gives the sound of the Rice when it 
is beaten, as well as the sound of Skin. 

1 ROWBOTHAM, J. F. op. cit., pp. 30-31. 



THE SOUND OF STONE is extolled by Chinese theorists as one of 
the most beautiful of all the sounds. It is said to give a sound 
midway between the Sound of Metal and the Sound of Wood, 
" and it is less tart and rasping than the Sound of Metal, and much 
brighter than the sound of Wood more brilliant and sweet than 
either/' To make the stone instruments, of which there are two 
varieties, the Tse-King and the Pien-King, both being comprised 
under the general name, King, the stone is sliced into thin plates, 

about the size and something of the shape of a carpenter's square. 

THE SOUND OF BAKED EARTH was first extracted by striking a 
flat piece of baked earth against some hard substance. But the 
sound thus produced was very harsh and unmelodious. The 
next attempt to extract it was by infringing on the domain of the 
Drum, and the sound of baked earth was got by stretching a piece 
of tanned skin over a vase of baked earth. Then vases of baked 
earth were made in the shape of drums and struck with drum- 
sticks. But these and similar experiments proved unsatisfactory, 
and since it was found impossible to get the sound of baked earth 
from an instrument of percussion, it was decided to attempt it 
from an instrument of wind. A certain quantity of earth was 
therefore taken, the finest that could be got. It was made still 
finer by washing it in several waters, and then worked into the 
consistency of liquid mud. Two eggs, one of a goose, the other 
of a hen, served as the models, and the liquid mud was thrown over 
these and allowed to set. And then the egg on the inside was 
broken and picked out, and an exact mould of the egg remained. 
The opening made at the end for the purpose of extracting the 
egg was next enlarged to serve as a mouthpiece, and 5 holes were 
pierced in the bowl, 3 on the front, and 2 on the back ; and 5 Musi- 
cal Notes were now able to be produced, each giving the desired 
sound of Baked Earth. 

THE SOUND OF SILK has two leading varieties, and seven minor 
varieties. The sound of silk was produced by twisting silken 
threads into cords and twanging them with the fingers. Little 
by little it began to be noticed that the sound of silk gave definite 


musical notes, and the cords were then pegged down on a flat 
board, and the number of threads in each cord counted so as to 
preserve the note unaltered for the future. 1 

When the desire to discriminate tones had reached this 
stage, we are well beyond the earliest or drum stage in the 
evolution of music. In the meantime, other motives had 
undoubtedly contributed to experimentation in the pro- 
duction of sounds. The desire to produce a loud sound 
which could be used as a signal in warfare led to the inven- 
tion of various forms of trumpets and horns. Here we may 
quote again from Rowbotham. 

When Orellana went on his expedition down the Maranon, the 
savages who from time to time attacked him almost invariably 
preluded their onset by a tremendous din of horns and trumpets. 
The Muras, who were the scourge of the colonists in South America, 
would always perform a wild overture on horns before commenc- 
ing their attack. The people of the Orinoco used horns for a simi- 
lar purpose. The Samoans blow conch-shells as a prelude to the 
war. The savages of Guiana commence their attacks with a 
screech of horns and trumpets. 

Now this use of the Horn in warfare is plainly an infringement 
on one of the uses of the old Drum ; for the Drum was supposed 
" to give victory over enemies/ 7 and doubtless the Horn was used 
with similar intention. But let us notice how much more rational 
is the use of the new instrument than the old. For how was the 
Drum supposed to confer victory? By a piece of pure Fetichistic 
superstition. It was rubbed on the thighs of the warriors previous 
to their entering battle, and this was supposed to endow them 
with irresistible strength. But with the Horn there was no magic 
concerned ; for Gideon is not the first man in the world's history 
who has routed a host by a sudden blast of the trumpets. 2 

For our purposes the impressive lesson to be drawn from 
these examples is that m6n not only evolved a series of 
1 ROWBOTHAM, J. F. op, cit., pp. 287-291. 2 Ibid., pp. 37-38. 


musical instruments but also trained themselves in the 
discrimination of tones and built up a most elaborate series 
of associations. Some of the ideas which they cultivated 
were purely fantastic but these ideas came to be a part of 
the accepted social belief. The social group was led by this 
belief to supply the necessary energy to cultivate the art to 
higher and higher levels. 

The form which this devotion to the musical arts took 
on very early in the history of civilization was a kind of divi- 
sion of labor. Society set aside certain specialists who pro- 
duced the sounds to which the rest of the group responded. 
The earliest Egyptian monuments give evidence of large 
groups of musicians employed on all kinds of public occa- 
sions. The march of an army, the banquet of a king, were 
not complete without an elaborate musical accompaniment. 
Every religious ceremonial was introduced by musicians, 
often in great numbers. The common people, as contrasted 
with these specialists, were to respond to the music but not 
to produce it. Music began thus to break away from the 
life of the common man. He was allowed to enjoy music 
and to participate in its effects, but he was no longer a 
producer after instruments were perfected. 

There remains one natural sound-producing instrument 
which the common man always commands, that is, the 
voice. There are two kinds of contributions which men 
made to music with their voices. Probably at the same time 
that men were trying the first experiments with the drum 
there was natural emotional shouting accompanying the 
other movements of the dance. Parallel with this was the 
work song intended to keep a group of workers in harmony 
in their action just as modern sailors are kept together 
when they sing at their tasks or as soldiers are kept in 
step by singing as they march. The other vocal contribution 
to music was the chanting intonation which the story-teller 


cultivated when he modulated his voice to fit the meaning 
of his narrative. This was a form of music more subdued 
than was the war song or the shouting at the dance ; it was 
perhaps more like the work song. 

The intonations of the voice were, however, in the course 
of time brought into association with the sounds produced by 
musical instruments. The chant came to have an instru- 
mental accompaniment and the war song was guided by the 
rhythm if not by the pitch of the drum. It is a long history 
during which the voice and musical instruments have been 
gradually attuned to one another. It was probably the 
stringed instruments which were most commonly employed 
in developing this relation. The stringed instruments were, 
however, at first so different in tone from the voice that ac- 
companiment was not what it is in modern music. Even 
the professional bard who chanted the hero stories did not 
parallel his vocal performances with the sounds from his 
harp. He struck the harp at the beginning of the chant and 
punctuated the pauses in his vocalization with instrumental 
strains. It was not until relatively recent times that the 
voice and the instrument attempted pitches of the same order. 

In the slow process of adjusting voices and instruments 
to one another, the instruments had the advantage of supply- 
ing tones which are fixed. The instrumental musician can 
come back again and again to exactly the same note, but the 
singer lacks both the muscular precision and the memory 
for tones which are necessary for a return to exactly the 
same note. If the voice is to attain anything like the sta- 
bility of the instrument, there must be a long and arduous 
training of the singer. Not only so, but the range of pos- 
sible tones which can be produced with precision by the 
instrumental musician is indefinitely wide, while the limits 
of precision of the voice, even of the trained voice, are soon 


The voice, on the other hand, contributes largely to the 
development of music because it is so intimately associated 
with the human experiences which music aims to express. 
The emotions of the singer will enter into the pitch of his 
singing and also into the rate. 

The history of music can be described as a gradual ac- 
commodation of human perceptions and powers of imita- 
tion to the instrumental production of tones. The instru- 
ments employed in this long evolution have been of every 
possible variety and have brought into music certain physi- 
cal regularities which do not appear at all in early music. 
There is thus a kind of artificiality in developed music which 
can be understood only when it is recognized that modern 
music is instrumental as well as human. 

The history of the musical scale is shrouded in obscurity 
because the recording of music is a very late art. The 
great probabilities are that the most primitive music sought 
a certain variety by sounding in succession tones of different 
pitches, but the intervals between such varying tones were 
not fixed. They depended on the accidents of the situation. 
Anyone who hears a child amusing himself with a primi- 
tive succession of tones in which he sounds first a high tone 
and then a low, repeating the pair over and over, is prob- 
ably listening to the earliest musical scale. The variety 
can be increased by adding a third pitch to the succession. 
From this point on the scale is increased to a series of five 
pitches. Here it stops for a great many peoples. The 
Orientals have a scale limited to five notes. The weird 
effect produced on American ears by music limited to fewer 
than our developed number of pitches is sufficiently well 
known to require nothing more than a mere reference here. 

The subdivision of the scale into its present number of 
intervals is the work of the Greeks and of the European 
nations which followed in the path of Greek civilization. 


The Greeks studied the science of music as well as practiced 
its arts. They knew even in the days of Pythagoras the 
relation between the length and tension of a vibrating 
string and the tone which it produces. 

Much of the mythical philosophy which Pythagoras taught 
about numbers was derived directly from his experiments 
with sounds. All the systematization of music which came 
through Greek civilization tended to make of the art a 
highly cultivated form of experience. Rowbotham, in com- 
menting on the evolution of music, even in Egypt, before it 
passed over into Greece, comes to the following conclusions : 

We left Music a Life Speech. We find it an article de luxe. 
What was once the common property of all has become the preroga- 
tive of a chosen few. It should seem that in this matter Music, 
Joy, and Freedom have fared alike. 

The Barbarian's birthright which are these three things 
is made so little account of now, that the toiling masses, in their 
stern conception of life, yield it up without a murmur to the idlers 
who flirt with it. There has been a sad dwindling in the estima- 
tion of Music since Civilisation set in, if the greater part of men 
can now make shift to do without it, and the rest are content to 
make its acquaintance by deputy. And the reason of this dwin- 
dling must plainly be that Music no longer answers any practical 
purpose in life. History, religion, morals, law have left the old 
channel through which they flowed ; and the scribes, philosophers, 
jurists, and others whom the disintegration of knowledge has 
brought into being, would laugh at the idea of chanting their lucu- 
brations and with reason too, for the pen has taken the place 
of the Lyre, and has been found a much more manageable instru- 
ment. Joy and freedom can no longer fill the vacuum, -for they 
have been banished from the majority of lives, and their for- 
tunate possessors are too much bewildered with the numberless 
ducts of happiness at their disposal to concentrate its flood on 
catgut. The old channel therefore is quite dried up, and until 
something is directed into it again, lies unused and worthless. 


Music must therefore be content to drag on an uneventful exist- 
ence until better days arrive of no more account than tapestry 
and embroidery, perhaps not so much. 1 

The historian of music expresses the belief that after 
losing its first natural character his art will take on in its 
later evolution a new and more productive relation to 
human experience. Be that as it may, it is very impressive 
to the psychologist studying the changes in human expe- 
riences that the history of one of the most widely cultivated 
of the modern arts shows a distinct break between mature art 
and the art which was natural and primitive. Modern music 
and even Greek music are cultivated arts. Men can be 
brought to a full appreciation of the meaning of cultivated 
art only through training. The fact is, of course, that for 
a great many individuals this special cultivation of musical 
appreciation is lacking. It is not forced upon one by the 
practical necessities of life as is the use of language and 
number. Music in its fully developed modern forms 
is to be compared to the higher reaches of literature 
or to the special demonstrations of higher mathematics; 
these are the possessions of the few, not the property of the 
common group. Nor is it likely that music can ever be- 
come, as it is sometimes called, the common language of the 
emotions, for the reason that the emotions are not matters 
of general social participation. They are subjective and 
personal to a degree which forever excludes them from the 
kind of social compulsion that must of necessity attach to 
the major conventions, such as language and number, on 
which ordinary intercourse is dependent. 

We have followed music to the point where it has become 
a highly developed scientific art, and, as such, separated 
from the ordinary life of the common man. We may now 

1 ROWBOTHAM, J. F. op. cit. y pp. 197-198. 


outline briefly what may be called a second cycle of the 
evolution. In this second cycle the art is worked over into 
a form in which a new type of appeal is made and a new type 
of training is instituted in the social effort to unite men at a 
higher level in the appreciation of the art. 

Although Greek music became a highly intricate and 
elaborately instrumented art, it was far below the level 
of present-day music. It produced melodies or sequences 
of tones, but does not seem to have arrived at the point where 
it could master the harmonies which are characteristic of 
the modern art. The higher evolutions begin with the use 
of music in the ancient and medieval church. 

Briefly outlined, the steps of this evolution are as follows : 
At first the church service which was participated in solely 
by the clerics was intoned and an elaborate system was 
evolved by them which was based on the ancient practice of 
chanting, but was much more highly perfected than the chant 
of the bard. After intonation came a later stage when the 
clerical conductors of the service were assisted by choirs 
which answered with a contrasting tone and with appropriate 
verbal responses. 

From this participation of various voices in the service, 
there soon followed an effort to harmonize the several voices. 
This required a new adjustment and led to the form of music 
known as counterpoint. At this stage each voice carried its 
own melody, but the various melodies were timed so that 
there was a correspondence of note to note, making a tonal 
combination which was simple in rhythm though complex 
in pitch. 

A long period of experimentation with counterpoint was 
necessary before the laws of congruent tones were discovered. 
The instrumentation of this more complex form of music 
also had to be mastered and this introduced an element 
of physical combination which had not been present at the 


earlier stage when the different tones merely succeeded one 
another in simple melodies. 

While this development was going forward under the in- 
fluence and support of the church, there was growing up a 
body of popular folk songs and professional music of a secu- 
lar character which later joined with the church music and 
the two together produced, following the sixteenth century, 
the great variety of forms which constitute modern music. 

It will be well in order to make this outline clear to add 
an account which describes some of the experiments that 
were necessary in order to perfect the modern art. A 
number of summary paragraphs may be quoted from 
Pratt's History of Music: 

From the 4th century the strong accent upon unity of organiza- 
tion, fixity of creed and uniformity of liturgy led steadily to a de- 
mand for richness and stateliness. Costly edifices become com- 
mon, ministrants were multiplied, and the whole ritual of worship 
tended to become ornate. This involved a new attention to music. 

The first center of activity was Constantinople, where Greek 
music was the established type of artistic song. Thus the tradi- 
tion of the ancient unison melody was handed on to Italy and the 
West. The evolution that followed is only imperfectly traceable 
in detail, but in the end it provided the mediaeval Church with a 
large and striking body of melodies, fitted to a variety of prose 
texts and even to metrical poetry. We must suppose that these 
ritual melodies grew out of manifold experiments at different 
places, which were only gradually wrought into a general and uni- 
form system. Even after the system was codified, its usages con- 
tinued to accumulate, and from time to time considerable modifi- 
cations in style appeared. . . . 

Since the Gregorian style originated for liturgical reasons, its 
home was the metropolitan cathedral or the monastic chapel, 
whence it spread to parish churches generally. Being cultivated 
only by ecclesiastics, to the common people it was remote and ab- 
struse. Its direct influence upon the general progress of music was 


therefore limited. To some extent there arose an antipathy be- 
tween it and secular music, which was heightened by the fact that 
church song was always in Latin. In the general evolution of 
music it has always remained a somewhat peculiar specialty, rep- 
resenting the persistence for a particular purpose of a style which 
is essentially antique. Yet it must be confessed that in its ideal 
perfection, as it stood in the early Middle Ages, it was a remark- 
able example of melodic invention and beauty. 1 


The positive achievements of the centuries following 1200 stand 
in striking contrast to the timid experiments of those before. 
From this point onward the art of music becomes interestingly 
interwoven with progress in other fields, being a phase of the gen- 
eral intellectual awakening of Europe that preceded the Renais- 
sance. . . . 

The distinctive feature of the period in music was a profound 
alteration in the aim of composition. In Greek music and its 
successor, the Gregorian style, the one desire was for a single 
melodic outline to enforce and beautify a verbal text. All music 
was a specialized outgrowth or derivative of poetic speech. A new 
era came in when it was seen that music might have beauty and 
meaning more or less independent of its words, being built up into 
a fabric or edifice of tones by massing and interweaving two or 
more voice-parts like strands or threads. 

The transition to this new idea involved two lines of effort, which 
for convenience may be taken up separately. These were (a) the 
reduction of melodies to regular rhythmic form, with such accen- 
tual and durational values of the tones that their motions could be 
accurately measured and mutually adjusted, and (6) the discovery 
of ways in which melodies could be simultaneously combined so 
as to be concordant, or, if discordant, still satisfactory and effec- 
tive. The former effort led to a theory of "time," the latter to a 
theory of " counterpoint/' and the two were mutually interde- 
pendent at every point. 2 

1 PRATT, WALDO SELDEN The History of Music, pp. 64-65 ; G. Schirmer, 
1907. 2 /bid., p. 77. 


From his doctrines of salvation by faith, the right of private 
judgment, and the universal priesthood of believers, Luther de- 
duced radical conclusions regarding public worship, including 
special emphasis on congregational participation in the service 
in the vernacular language (instead of Latin). Although holding 
closely to the outlines of the Roman service, he undertook to reduce 
some features that he held objectionable and to make the people's 
part conspicuous. He seized upon common song as indispensable, 
and in 1523 and 1526, with the aid of Walther and others, issued 
orders of service with this element emphasized. The hymns pro- 
vided were as a rule specially written in metrical form. For them 
melodies were either borrowed from favorite folk-songs or part- 
songs or were newly written in similar style, thus linking the new 
type with forms already universally popular. These melodies 
were later called " chorales. " 

Though at first the musical treatment of chorales was more or 
less contrapuntal, with the melody in the tenor, before 1600 the 
style advanced to a definitely harmonic form, with a solid pro- 
gression of chords, the melody in the treble and the lines sharply 
defined by cadences and controlled by a coherent tonality. 

The chorale became the nucleus of Protestant church music 
generally, and it is of historic importance because its wide accep- 
tance hastened and popularized the new tendency to base com- 
position on harmony rather than counterpoint, and because from 
its extensive literature German organ music later derived an in- 
exhaustible fund of suggestion. What the treasures of Plain- 
Song had been to Catholic music, the new treasures of the chorale 
style became to Protestant music. This innovation, then, con- 
tained the germ of great subsequent developments. 1 

No one can read such statements without being impressed 
by the fact that civilization has expended in the refinement 
of the art of music an enormous amount of energy. Like 
all human institutions this art has grown through ages of 
experimentation and in the long process has absorbed the 

1 Ibid., p. 129. 


thought and efforts of many men. The impression that 
society has evolved the art through great effort is heightened 
if one reads the later history of music and becomes ac- 
quainted with the lives of the composers who have contrib- 
uted to music since the sixteenth century saw the dawn of 
modern music. 

Music like every other human institution is thus seen to be 
the result of a gradual accumulation of what may be called 
social capital. No single individual, whatever his personal 
capacity for the appreciation of tones, can be regarded as the 
source of this art. The Greeks derived their instruments 
and their ability to appreciate the relatively simple music of 
which they were masters, from Ionia and Egypt. The medi- 
eval church took what Greece contributed and elaborated it 
into something incomparably more complex than had been 
the art of the ancients. Modern musicians borrowed in turn 
what the medieval world produced, and are still in process 
of refining and amplifying it. Everywhere we see evidence 
of the highest degree of social cooperation. 

Not only has music grown through gradual social coopera- 
tion, but it has always held a position of high esteem in 
the social mind. Although there have been individual in- 
stances when exponents of the musical arts suffered from 
neglect, the major fact is that, in general, society has accorded 
its highest rewards to those who have contributed to music. 
The honor paid to musicians and the support which society 
has given them while they were doing their work are evidences 
of the most substantial kind that society is willing to co- 
operate in the development of the art. 

Especially is it important for the psychology of social 
institutions to note the fact that many persons join in con- 
tributing indirectly to music even though they personally 
have very little direct knowledge of the institution to which 
they are contributing. It is enough for the plain man that 


the leaders of society think highly of this composer or that. 
He will fall in line and contribute in some degree to the social 
and material support of the composer even though his per- 
sonal delight in listening to music is small. This means that 
the social mind is determined in its estimates of values not 
by personal tastes and appreciations but by certain aggre- 
gate judgments. Social interdependence has become so com- 
pact that even if an unmusical individual does not go to the 
opera himself, he is glad to know that his city is supporting 
it. He can understand social respectability, even if he does 
not fully participate in the experiences on which it rests. 

The relation of music to social life in general can be com- 
prehended most readily if the principle of limitation of in- 
dividual attention which was expounded in an earlier chapter 
is kept in mind. It was pointed out that the hunter and the 
arrow maker specialize because the human mind is incapable 
of including in its range of activities a great variety of 
interests. The division of labor in the field of industry does 
not permit individuals to forego altogether productive 
industry but it does permit each person to follow his partic- 
ular bent within the general economic system. Special- 
ization of interest is not permitted by society to any such 
degree as will allow the individual to omit the cultivation of 
language or of punctuality or of some degree of precision. 
Society demands of all of its members the fundamentals of 
social intercourse. Given these, society is obliged to recog- 
nize the limitations of individual energy and time and is 
complacent when the members of the group seek enjoyments 
and recreation in different lines. Music is one of the recog- 
nized forms of human experience which society leaves to the 
individual taste, to be cultivated or neglected as each member 
of the group sees fit. 

In spite of the absence of social compulsion, there have 
been motives for the perfection of the art of music sufficiently 


strong to lead to the bestowal on this art of a great deal of 
effort. Music as a device for making ceremonials impressive, 
music as a source of occasional stimulation, music as a source 
of refined enjoyment by the selected few will never disappear 
for lack of cultivation. It is one of society's luxuries, but 
so long as society has surplus energy and an adequate satis- 
faction of its imperative needs the luxuries will be sought. 



There is a group of fine arts which have to do with the 
arranging of materials in space in such a way that they 
will appeal to the human eye as agreeable. These fine arts 
are closely allied to certain practical arts. For example, 
architecture is concerned with such matters as the ability 
of a foundation to carry the weight of a superstructure ; 
and also with the aesthetic effects produced by a building 
because of the lines which it marks off against the back- 
ground of the landscape and the sky. Similarly in thinking 
of clothing we may emphasize the decorative effect of color 
and form and speak of design, or we may think merely of 
comfort and utility. In the first instance, we are dealing 
with fashion ; in the second, with something to wear. 

The fine arts of this group, including besides architecture 
and costume designing, pottery, metal working, drawing, 
painting, landscape gardening, and a host of others, all have 
histories which it would be illuminating for the student of 
civilization to study. They all reveal the inner nature of 
man in his struggle to master the outer world and at the same 
time gratify his own taste. They all show how each genera- 
tion has based its actions and its tastes on the experiences 
of its predecessors, evolving thus a gradual accumulation of 
standards which control the individual to a very pronounced 
degree. For example, the periods of national architecture 
make it perfectly evident that the individuals who designed 
temples and churches in various countries and epochs did so 



not in response to purely individual ideals but under the 
control of patterns handed down from social experience. 

Perhaps the most striking illustrations of the control of 
tastes by standards evolved by the group are to be drawn 
from the succession of fashions in dress. No modern man 
would venture to appear on the street with a costume of the 
sixteenth century. Men have found that in the exacting 
demands of modern business competition, it is better to 
cover up one's personal preferences for form and color by 
adopting the drab monotony of conventional male attire. 
Social experience shows that a man can do business with less 
distraction in such a garb. Women, on the other hand, are 
engaged in cultivating a different kind of contact with the 
social world, and their costumes are accordingly of a different 
type. Even here, however, competition has dictated that 
there shall be a reasonable limit set to variability. 

What is true of architecture and dress is true of all of the 
arts. There is a style of drawing and painting in China 
and Japan which is sharply in contrast with the style of 
drawing and painting of occidental civilization. We find 
that each individual artist in these contrasted areas is 
better satisfied with the style of his social environment than 
he would be with the style of the group foreign to him. 
He is surrounded and controlled by the style which be- 
longs to his people. This is clear evidence of social domi- 
nation of taste and technique. Example after example of 
the same type can be drawn from the history of every 
nation and every period. 

There is another fundamental fact common to all of the 
arts here under consideration. It is that "good form" 
from the point of view of taste very often turns out to be 
"good form" from a mechanical point of view. A column 
of marble is most beautiful when the diameter of its shaft 
and the size of its capital are exactly adequate to the weight 


which the column has to carry. This correspondence be- 
tween the human demand and the demand dictated by 
physical law has often impressed writers on aesthetics. 
They find in such facts evidence of a great underlying unity 
of being which includes human nature and all of the natural 
objects in the world. 

The psychologist is confronted with the problem of uniting 
in a single system a series of facts which at first seem to have 
little or nothing in common. Art is national and at the same 
time art is natural. Art grows out of the free expression of 
human preferences, and at the same time those objects are 
found to be the most artistic which obey most fully the laws 
of mechanics. 

The purpose of this chapter will be to gather up certain 
observations which apply to drawing and painting in the 
effort to supply a general formula of explanation for all of the 
arts dealing with space relations. The two graphic arts are 
chosen because they more than others of the space arts have 
been subjected to comparative study. The reason for this 
fact is probably to be found in the ease with which drawings 
can be preserved and reproduced. They are more readily 
accessible to the student than are any other art materials. 

The most primitive drawings of the race, that is, the 
drawings made by savages and children, are not accurate or 
detailed representations. They are mere outline sketches 
reproducing usually only a part of the object's contour. 
Sometimes they are hardly more than a scrawl of lines 
showing that the drawer is thinking of something tall or 
something broad. The drawings are mere devices for re- 
minding the artist or the onlooker of something which he 
has seen and in which he has been interested. The primitive 
artist draws animals and men but not inanimate objects, 
evidently following his intimate interests rather than the 
impressions which the environment offers to his eyes. 


Without attempting to reproduce all of the figures to 
which reference is made, we may borrow the account given 
by Wells of the drawings found among the remains of some 
of the earliest inhabitants of Europe. 

It greatly aids us to realize their common humanity that these 
earliest true men could draw. Both races, it would seem, drew as- 
tonishingly well. They were by all standards savages, but they 
were artistic savages. They drew better than any of their succes- 
sors down to the beginnings of history. They drew and painted 
on the cliffs and cave walls that they had wrested from the Nean- 
derthal men. And the surviving drawings come to the ethnolo- 
gist, puzzling over bones and scraps, with the effect of a plain mes- 
sage shining through guesswork and darkness. They drew on 
bones and antlers ; they carved little figures. 

These late Palaeolithic people not only drew remarkably well 
for our information, and with an increasing skill as the centuries 
passed, but they have also left us other information about their 
lives in their graves. They buried. They buried their dead, often 
with ornaments, weapons, and food ; they used a lot of colour in the 
burial, and evidently painted the body. From that, one may infer 
that they painted their bodies during life. Paint was a big fact in 
their lives. They were inveterate painters; they used black, 
brown, red, yellow, and white pigments, and the pigments they 
used endure to this day in the caves of France and Spain. Of 
all modern races, none have shown so pictorial a disposition ; the 
nearest approach to it has been among the American Indians. 

These drawings and paintings of the later Palaeolithic people 
went on through a long period of time, and present wide fluctua- 
tions in artistic merit. We give here some early sketches, from 
which we learn of the interest taken by these early men in the bi- 
son, horse, ibex, cave bear, and reindeer. In its early stages the 
drawing is often primitive like the drawing of clever children ; quad- 
rupeds are usually drawn with one hindleg and one foreleg, as chil- 
dren draw them to this day., The legs on the other side were too 
much for the artist's technique. Possibly the first drawings began 
as children's drawings begin, out of idle scratchings. The savage 



scratched with a flint on a smooth rock surface, and was reminded 
of some line or gesture. But their solid carvings are at least as 
old as their first pictures. The earlier drawings betray a complete 

Stag and salmon. 


Heui oC & wmnan., carved ut. i 

*"*^* * "^^^.i^^h , rf >r 

pMUs (Aziliart 


(From Wells.) 


incapacity to group animals. As the centuries progressed, more 
skilful artists appeared. The representation of beasts became at 
last astonishingly vivid and like. But even at the crest of their 
artistic time, they still drew in profile as children do ; perspective 
and the fore-shortening needed for back and front views were too 
much for them. They rarely drew themselves. The vast majority 
of their drawings represent animals. The mammoth and the horse 
are among the commonest themes. Some of the people, whether 
Grimaldi people or Cro-Magnon people, also made little ivory 
and soapstone statuettes, and among these are some very fat 
female figures. These latter suggest the physique of Grimaldi 
rather than of Cro-Magnon artists. They are like Bushmen 
women. The human sculpture of the earlier times inclined to 
caricature, and generally such human figures as they represent are 
far below the animal studies in vigour and veracity. 

Later on there was more grace and less coarseness in the human 
representations. One little ivory head discovered is that of a 
girl with an elaborate coiffure. These people at a later stage also 
scratched and engraved designs on ivory and bone. Some of the 
most interesting groups of figures are carved very curiously round 
bone, and especially round rods of deerbone, so that it is impossible 
to see the entire design all together. Figures have also been found 
modelled in clay, although no Palaeolithic people made any use 
of pottery. 

Many of the paintings are found in the depths of unlit caves. 
They are often difficult of access. The artists must have employed 
lamps to do their work, and shallow soapstone lamps in which fat 
could have been burnt have been found. Whether the seeing of 
these cavern paintings was in some way ceremonial or under what 
circumstances they were seen, we are now altogether at a loss to 
imagine. 1 

These primitive people drew the objects with which they 
were best acquainted. Their world of art represented the 
world of their most absorbing interests. Furthermore, they 

1 WELLS, H. G. The Outline of History, I, pp. 92-95 ; Macmillan Co., 


drew these objects as they thought of them, not as they 
appeared in nature. No primitive art is realistic. Only 
after long ages of experimentation do men learn how to con- 
centrate attention on details and on such realistic facts as 
perspective and natural color. 

Perhaps it may be well to digress a little from the con- 
sideration of primitive drawing and establish sympathy for 
the early artist by pointing out some of the limitations of 
ordinary adult experience. One begins to understand why 
the first artists neglected perspective when one thinks of 
the train of experiences which one has in watching an 
approaching fellow being. Under such circumstances the 
fact is that the approaching figure casts in the eye an image 
of ever-increasing size. The man one hundred yards away 
casts an image on the retina which is half the size of the 
image cast when he is fifty yards away. The ordinary 
observer does not, however, think of the approaching man 
as increasing in size. Experience has taught that men do not 
change suddenly in their dimensions. The change in size 
of the retinal image is interpreted not in terms of actual 
sensory experience but in terms of what one knows about 
men. When an amateur tries to draw the man, therefore, 
he does not make him of different sizes to represent his ap- 
pearance at different distances, but always of the same size. 
This is the psychological reason why mathematical perspec- 
tive comes into drawing very late. Primitive artists were 
concerned with what they thought about objects, not with 
what they actually could see. 

Examination of the drawings of primitive peoples em- 
phasizes in various ways what has been said about the lack 
of reproductive detail in primitive drawing. A drawing of a 
fish or of a man will show only the head. The reason for 
this is that the artist was interested only in what was for 
him the most conspicuous part of the object. This is an 


illustration of the principle of selection under the guidance 
of interest. Sometimes a profile face will be supplied with 
two eyes. This is an illustration of the fact that the first 
drawings are " out of the head " of the artist. He knows that 
men have two eyes, so he puts them into his drawing quite 
regardless of the fact which careful observation will show, 
that when a face is seen in profile only one eye is visible. 
In like fashion primitive artists in trying to depict a man 
mounted on a horse will show both of the man's legs on the 
visible side of the horse. 

The other characteristic of primitive drawings to which 
reference has been made is that they are always mere out- 
line sketches. There are no details, no lights and shades. 
When colors are used, the pigments are selected not because 
they conform to the colors of objects but because they help 
to make the pattern stand out more clearly. The coloring 
of the Sunday comic supplement is strictly in accord with 
the most approved savage tastes in these matters. The 
colors are all selected because of their striking character 
and because of the contrasts which they can provide. Each 
figure is given its color in great flat surfaces in order to help 
those who look at the picture to pick out easily the parts 
of the picture which have different meanings. Outlines are 
sharp and distinct. There is no shading or blending of 
surfaces. Contrast and easy selection are the dominant 
motives of the artist. 

As soon as one notes these characteristics of primitive 
drawings, one recognizes that they are nothing more nor less 
than projections of the experience of the observer. The 
drawing is not at first the reproduction of an object. It is 
the reproduction of an idea. Its limitations are the limita- 
tions of the idea. What it contains by way of positive 
features is what the mind tends to emphasize. 

Coming back to the statement quoted from Wells, we may 


point out that these early men, who were absorbed in hunting 
animals for food, did not draw landscapes and trees. In 
fact, as Wundt has pointed out in a passage to be quoted at 
length later, landscape drawing and painting are very late 
in their appearance in the history of art. Men take the 
landscape for granted at first and bestow their whole atten- 
tion on the animals and men, who are the centers of prime 

Starting from primitive outline ideas, men have made 
progress through social cooperation in a number of direc- 
tions dictated by the interests which their drawings were 
intended to serve. Thus when communication or the mak- 
ing of records was the dominant purpose, that evolution was 
worked out which was recorded in the chapter on the 
alphabet. The alphabet is a series of simplified drawings 
which ultimately came into association with sounds and lost 
their function of informing the eye with regard to the shape 
of objects and took on the function of reminding the observer 
of names. 

In another case simple outline drawing was developed into 
decorative design. Men noted that certain animal forms 
fitted gracefully into certain spaces, and they devised repeti- 
tions of the form to make a border or surface which seemed to 
them interesting. In such a case the animal form was very 
frequently modified so as to emphasize balance and sym- 
metry of parts to a degree that departed radically from 
nature. The head of the animal sometimes was made as 
large as the body in order that the two parts of the animal 
should contribute to the design in equal degree. Figure XIX 
gives some examples of this evolution. The alligator form 
has been conventionalized and transformed into an orna- 
mental design. 

Decorative design, hardly less than the alphabet, leads 
away from the observation of nature. The motive here is 



not to follow closely that which is presented to the eye when 
the object is seen but to rearrange lines so that they shall 
mark rhythmical successions. 

The third direction in which men moved in maturing the 
graphic arts of drawing and painting was that of reproduc- 
ing more accurately figure and color. This led to repre- 
sentative drawing and painting. The motives for the culti- 
vation of realism in art are so obvious that we need not 
attempt to describe them. We are interested here more in 


the method by which realism has been evolved than in its 
motives. Let us take a case out of ordinary modern life 
which will give us insight into the process that has gone on 
in human history. 

Suppose that the ordinary man wants to draw a sphere. 
He will be able to make a very good start by drawing a cir- 
cular contour. He may even go a step further and fill in 
his circle with black or some color so as to set it off clearly 
from its background. The drawing will remain, however, 
absolutely flat and will be unsatisfactory because of its com- 

1 HOLMES, W. H. Ancient Art of the Province of Chiriqui, vi, 1888, p. 173 ; 
Ethnological Report, Washington. 


plete lack of perspective. The ordinary observer is helpless 
to improve his drawing because he does not know what to 
look at in the natural sphere in order to discover what is 
needed to improve his drawing. His attention is usually 
absorbed in the contours of the object and of the drawing. 
So far as he can see, they agree. The same is true of the 
coloring. What the ordinary observer has not noted is the 
play of light and shade. Some day an observer more keen 
than others will note that there is always a bright spot on 
the side of a sphere and that this shades off into darker 
areas. This keen observer puts a bright spot on his circle 
and it begins to stand out. Once the keen observer has 
taken this step and recorded it, others can see what they 
did not see before, and the art of representing spheres will 
have been advanced to a higher level. Individual genius 
and social cooperation will have operated to improve at 
once observation and art, bringing both of them into closer 
harmony with nature. 

Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the fact that realism 
in art is not an expression of purely aesthetic impulses. 
Realism in art is an aspect of growing realism in ideas. 
Primitive man does not note all objects of nature in detail 
any more than does modern man. If one is not interested in 
trees, and most persons are not, one does not look at trees in 
detail. The result for drawing is that most people cannot 
reproduce trees with any high degree of realistic detail. 
The way to make progress in the accurate drawing of trees 
is to observe them closely. Conversely, one of the best 
ways to induce careful observation is to set the observer the 
task of drawing trees. 

The progress of realism in graphic art can be divided into a 
number of sharply distinguishable phases. First came closer 
attention to the details of contour ; then came attention to 
color; and finally, came attention to light and shadow. 


This last refinement was part of the very late mastery of the 
technique of representing perspective. 

In the course of this progressive attention to detail, the 
individual observer is sure to be guided by the modes of life 
of his tribe. The hunting tribe will have one group of 
realistic interests; the herders will have another. The 
Greeks brought to the highest perfection representations of 
the human figure. The Orientals have perfected flower 
forms and animal forms. 

We see from these statements why it is that art takes on 
the character of a national mode of thought and expression. 
The Chinese and Japanese, for example, have never at- 
tempted the fullest development of perspective. The beauty 
of their art is the beauty of a balanced and harmonious 
surface. The attention of these peoples is controlled by the 
interest which their national tastes selected for emphasis. 
Once a trend of observation and of art becomes established, 
it dominates all of the individuals who come into intimate 
contact with it. 

The history of European art is sufficiently recent and 
completely recorded so that we can trace with precision the 
progress in the mastery of perspective drawing. In the 
late medieval period the paintings of the European artists 
were centered on human subjects. Since decorative art 
was cultivated chiefly in connection with ecclesiastical 
edifices, it was the saints and martyrs and episodes in the 
life of Christ which engaged the attention of artists. The 
dominant human figures were in many cases the only objects 
in the works of art. In other instances, an attempt was 
made to give local character to the portrait, and a back- 
ground was undertaken along with the representation of the 
human figure. The first efforts of this type are altogether 
lacking in perspective. Usually the human figure is of 
colossal size as compared with the building or landscape in 


the background, and it is thrust into the front of the picture 
in such a way as to destroy altogether the unity of the scene. 
Colors conforming to nature were also lacking. All kinds 
of experiments with the background and with the coloring of 
the human figures were tried, many of them following wholly 
conventional lines. 

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Renais- 
sance brought a movement of return to nature. Browning 
has given a vivid account of this movement in his poem 
entitled "Fra Lippo Lippi." The monk is justifying him- 
self to the constable who has caught him truant from the 
cloister and falls into a discussion of his art. He tells how 
he began as a beggar urchin to take careful note of people 
and things and how he was later allowed to begin painting 
on the cloister walls. He tells how he followed as closely 
as he could his observations of real people and how the 
monks were filled with admiration at his realism, but the 
prior came with serious doubts. The prior belonged to the 
older school of conventionalists and doubted very much 
the morality of realism. 

The following are Browning's lines : 

The monks closed in a circle and praised loud 

Till checked, taught what to see and not to see, 

Being simple bodies, " That's the very man ! 

Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog ! 

That woman's like the Prior's niece who comes 

To care about his asthma : it's the life !" 

But there my triumph's straw-fire flared and funked ; 

Their betters took their turn to see and say : 

The Prior and the learned pulled a face 

And stopped all that in no time. "How? what's here? 

Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all ! 

Faces, arms, legs and bodies like the true 

As much as pea and pea ! It's deviFs-game ! 


Your business is not to catch men with show, 

With homage to the perishable clay, 

But lift them over it, ignore it all, 

Make them forget there's such a thing as flesh. 

Your business is to paint the souls of men 

Man's soul, and it's a fire, smoke . . . no, it's not . , 

It's vapour done up like a new-born babe 

(In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth) 

It's . . . well, what matters talking, it's the soul ! 

Give us no more of body than shows soul ! 

Here's Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God, 

That sets us praising, why not stop with him? 

Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head 

With wonder at lines, colours, and what not? 

Paint the soul, never mind the legs and arms ! 

Rub all out, try at it a second time. 

Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts, 

She's just my niece. . . . Herodias, I would say, 

Who went and danced and got men's heads cut off ! 

Have it all out !" Now, is this sense, I ask? 

A fine way to paint soul, by painting body 

So ill, the eyes can't stop there, must go further 

And can't fare worse ! Thus, yellow does for white 

When what you put for yellow's simply black, 

And any sort of meaning looks intense 

When all beside itself means and looks nought. 

Why can't a painter lift each foot in turn, 

Left foot and right foot, go a double step, 

Make his flesh liker and his soul more like, 

Both in their order? Take the prettiest face, 

The Prior's niece . . . patron-saint is it so pretty 

You can't discover if it means hope, fear, 

Sorrow or joy? won't beauty go with these? 

Suppose I've made her eyes all right and blue, 

Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash, 

And then add soul and heighten them threefold ? 

Or say there's beauty with no soul at all 


(I never saw it put the case the same ) 

If you get simple beauty and nought else, 

You get about the best thing God invents : 

That's somewhat : and you'll find the soul you have missed, 

Within yourself, when you return him thanks. 

Later, Browning tells his theory of art in Fra Lippo's 
appeal to the common sense of the constable in the following 
lines : 

You be judge ! 

You speak no Latin more than I, belike ; 
However, you're my man, you've seen the world 

The beauty and the wonder and the power, 

The shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, 
Changes, surprises, and God made it all ! 

For what ? Do you feel thankful, ay or no, 
For this fair town's face, younder river's line, 
The mountain round it and the sky above, 
Much more the figures of man, woman, child, 
These are the frame to? What's it all about? 
To be passed over, despised ? or dwelt upon, 
Wondered at ? Oh, this last of course ! you say. 
But why not do as well as say, paint these 
Just as they are, careless what comes of it? 
God's works paint anyone, and count it crime 
To let a truth slip. Don't object, " His works 
Are here already ; nature is complete : 

Suppose you reproduce her (which you can't) 
There's no advantage ! you must beat her, then." 
For, don't you mark ? we're made so that we love 
First when we see them painted, things we have passed 
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see ; 
And so they are better, painted better to us, 
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that ; 
God uses us to help each other so, 
Lending our minds out. 


This story of the realism of the Renaissance is a story of 
the way in which natural colors were substituted for con- 
ventional colors and perspective was gradually perfected 
through observation. 

In his Voelkerpsychologie, Wundt has commented on this 
movement in terms which may be put in English as follows : 

The struggle to secure perspective is a matter of importance in 
the evolution of artistic imagination not only because of its own 
direct achievements but also because it reflects a change in the 
whole mental attitude of men toward art and its objects. Briefly 
put, the matter can be sketched in the following terms. The 
painting of the Renaissance is dominated, as was that of the im- 
mediately preceding period of Christian art, by religious ideas. 
The Renaissance sought its materials, however, in real life. It 
aimed to express in concrete ways such ideals as piety, humility, 
religious ecstasy, mother-love, and childish innocence in every 
possible form and color. Sometimes in order to bring out the vir- 
tues it resorted to contrasts. The people and the happenings 
which were used to convey these ideals in art were always taken 
from reality. Devotion to reality led the artists to strive more 
and more to reproduce as exactly as possible the form and color and 
shadings of the objects which they represented. In order to give 
his picture depth, the artist added to the single human figure or 
to the group which he painted some kind of a background; at 
first this was made up of walls of a building, and later a landscape. 
In the Italian art of the middle Renaissance the background is 
evidently put into the picture with no motive other than that of 
contributing to the lifelikeness of the human figures. The back- 
ground was required especially where the human figures were in 
action or where the biblical narrative represented in the picture 
called for a setting of some kind. The background, however, as 
soon as it began to appear, emphasized the need of perspective 
as the human figures never had done. It is out of this demand for 
a mastery of landscape perspective that there grew the artistic 
device of finding and using a vanishing point for all pictures. As 
soon as landscape painting with the device of perspective had 


been worked out in the effort to give the human figures a true 
spatial setting, there was a tendency to carry over to the human 
figures and to the other objects in the painting all that had been 
discovered in the perfection of the landscape. 

In the meantime the human interest which was the center of the 
painting exercised an influence on the selection of the background. 
The idea which was in the mind of the artist as characteristic of his 
human figures furnished the motive for the selection of a congenial 
background which would express the same general feeling tone. Thus 
the landscape which was originally put into the picture in keeping 
with the biblical narrative as, for example, the temple at Jerusalem 
or the Garden of Gethsemane, was depicted in such a way as to 
conform to the meaning of the picture or at times was changed 
with a view to making the impression more vivid through the 
development of a contrasting feeling tone. With all these addi- 
tions the Italian art of the Renaissance is essentially an art of 
human figures, exhibiting as its only real object human nature in 
its various manifestations and its relations to God and men. Even 
with the greatest Italian masters the landscape is simple, almost 
sketchy. Their landscapes show no seasonal variety, and that 
most impressive element of landscape perspective, namely, atmos- 
pheric perspective, is shown, when present at all, only in the color- 
ation of distant mountains on the horizon. 

The employment of landscapes as significant backgrounds pre- 
pared the way for the development of landscape painting as an 
independent phase of art. It was necessary that landscapes should 
exhibit the power of art to express sentiments and emotions first as 
a part of a picture including human actions before they could 
be used independently as means of expressing human experiences. 
The emancipation of landscape painting from its earlier restricted 
form is the achievement of Dutch art. The stimulating character 
of this new type of art arises from the fact that it is entirely in- 
dependent of human beings and of those particular conditions 
under which human life produces emotional values. Landscape 
painting thus becomes an essential element of modern painting 
coordinate with two other forms of art which arose at the same 
time. One of these is portrait painting, which gives expression 


to the psychological character of an individual without any ref- 
erence to religious or historical considerations. The other is the 
so-called genre or familiar art which portrays a domestic interior 
or a village scene and exhibits thus the joys and sorrows of com- 
mon life. These were developed along with landscape painting. 

The discovery that landscape taken by itself is the purest and 
most effective means of expressing all kinds of human moods from 
the highest exaltation to the profoundest depression is one of the 
greatest discoveries of all time in art. As a means of expressing 
human emotions and sentiments, landscape painting takes a place 
among the representative arts analogous to that taken by pure 
harmony in music when it became detached from singing and danc- 
ing. This discovery of the value of landscapes could never have 
been made except through the use of landscapes as backgrounds for 
human life, any more than music could have been evolved without 
its connection in primitive life with singing and dancing. Further- 
more, in the degree in which landscape painting aroused and cul- 
tivated a feeling for nature, nature itself became an object of 
aesthetic enjoyment. As the art of the Greeks discovered the 
beauty of the human figure, so modern painting was the means 
of bringing to attention the beauty of nature. 1 

This lengthy quotation from Wundt teaches by direct 
reference to historical facts how it is that the art interests 
of one generation grow out of the interests of an earlier 
age. Painting is a product of social cooperation. 

Our study has supplied explanation of the first fact which 
was noted at the opening of this chapter, namely, the fact that 
art has a national character. We turn now to a considera- 
tion of the second fact. Art, in order to be of the highest 
type, must conform to natural law. 

Lipps, a German writer on aesthetics, has based his theory 
of spatial aesthetics on an examination of the Doric column. 
His contention is that an observer looking at this column is 
drawn into sympathy with it much as one is drawn into 

1 WUNDT, WILHELM Voelkerpsychokgie, Ed. II, Th. I, pp. 278-281. 


sympathy with a human being who is seen trying to lift a 
heavy object or carry a heavy weight. The sympathy which 
is felt for the column or the man includes as one of its most 
important elements certain reactions giving rise to sensa- 
tions of strain. One feels one's own muscles grow rigid as 
one contemplates a person trying to lift a heavy object. 
The reaction is a part of the process of perception. If the 
impression given by the column or by the fellow being is that 
of adequacy to the situation, the strain is slight or even 
replaced by a feeling of relaxation. If, on the other hand, 
the bearer of the burden seems to be inadequate, there is an 
accumulation of strain which is in the nature of an effort 
on the observer's part to help carry the weight. The sym- 
pathy which comes when the weight is adequately carried is 
a sympathy of pleasure and success. The sympathy which 
is felt when one has to help carry the burden is a sympathy 
of distress. 

The explanation propounded by Lipps is in complete 
accord with the accepted views of modern psychology 
regarding the nature of perception. It is fully established 
by laboratory studies that recognition of any object is depend- 
ent not merely on sensory impression but on the character 
of the reaction which is aroused in the observer. Let 
us consider in detail an experiment which will support the 
explanation given by Lipps. If a person picks up a bottle 
of mercury, he will grossly overestimate its weight. The 
reason for this is that ordinary bottles filled with ordi- 
nary liquids have been lifted again and again by every ma- 
ture person. As a result of all of these experiences, each 
of us has acquired a certain tendency to strain the muscles 
to a familiar degree every time he starts to pick up a bottle. 
When we reach for the bottle of mercury, we set our muscles 
as experience has taught us to set them for bottles in general. 
This time the set is wrong. The bottle does not respond as 


we had expected, and, impressed by the disparity between 
our expectations and the facts, we overestimate the weight. 
Overestimation is here the result of a shock of disappointment. 

The mercury illustration opens the way to the con- 
sideration of a whole series of interesting questions. How 
does the mature observer of a Doric column come to have 
the right tension? How does his sympathy respond with 
accuracy to just the right diameter of the column and to 
just the right size of the capital ? How far can one go astray 
in such matters ? 

A part of the answer to these questions is to be found in 
the fact that, in a great many instances, human tastes do 
not properly adjust themselves but do as a matter of fact go 
astray. The supposed accuracy of untrained human sym- 
pathies is very largely a fiction. The reason why people live 
with perfect composure in hideous houses and enjoy furniture 
which is overornate and top-heavy with upholstery and in- 
harmonious in color; the reason why people think well of 
cast-iron statuary on their front lawns is that their reactions 
have developed along with their perceptions in unsesthetic 

It is true that in matters of symmetry and balance all 
human beings are fairly agreed as to what is proper and what 
is not. This is due, however, not to the fact that we were 
born with aesthetic bents in favor of symmetry, but rather 
to the fact that from the first days, experience has put before 
our eyes and into our hands objects which are symmetrical 
and objects which nature compels us to balance if we are to 
hold them at all. Every move that the infant makes is in 
a world governed by the laws of mechanics. Naturally, 
his muscular tensions will be trained under the control of 
these laws. Now and then experience will mislead, but, in 
the main, nature is uniform enough so that we may safely 
rely on our cultivated habits of tension. 


The facts which stand out very clearly when we analyze 
sesthetical experiences are that we are agreeably impressed 
with those objects and situations which correspond to the 
strains and tensions which we have acquired, and that we are 
distressed when the strain induced by the perception of an 
object is in any way inharmonious with our expectation and 
training. The fundamental fact is not the esthetic appre- 
ciation of the moment but the long line of experiences which 
have drilled our nervous systems. 

Examples without number could be adduced of the fact 
that perception is controlled by training. Take so simple a 
matter as the recognition of the direction of straight lines. 
The world is full of vertical and horizontal lines. Every 
time an observer runs his eye up and down a tree or the 
edge of a building, he gets a lesson in verticality. Every 
time one looks along the horizon or sees a log lying on the 
ground, one gets a lesson in the recognition of horizontal 
positions. To be sure, there are all sorts of other experi- 
ences which present lines at various angles. The branches 
of every tree and the sloping hillsides offer to the eyes of 
the observer examples of angles of which one line is oblique 
while the other is horizontal or vertical. The oblique lines ex- 
tend in a great variety of directions, however, and gradually 
the vertical and horizontal lines are emphasized because of 
their frequent recurrence. In the dark room of the labora- 
tory when there is nothing with which to compare the lines, 
we can recognize horizontals and verticals with a degree of 
exactness not remotely approached by our recognition of lines 
in other directions. Does this prove that our eyes are pecul- 
iarly adapted at birth to vertical and horizontal lines ? Not 
at all. Experience has drilled us in adjustment to these two 
most common directions, and we know them best because our 
environment has been our teacher. 

The conclusion just reached is impressively reenforced if 


we consider the aesthetic habits which are cultivated by men 
and women in the presence of artificial objects such as arti- 
cles of dress. One needs only to look at an old photograph 
to see how curious are the forms of dress indulged in a few 
years ago. Yet in that earlier day the accepted fashion was 
not impressive for its ugliness. Indeed, it looked altogether 
becoming and excited the admiration of many a beholder. 
Perception was trained by familiarity. 

Perception and sesthetical appreciation are trained by 
the landscape in which one spends one's life. The familiar 
hills of a New England landscape are sometimes so deeply 
impressed on the sesthetical memory of one who grew up in 
that environment that the even stretches of the prairies 
seem desolate and barren. On the other hand, after one 
has lived on the open plains, the hills which shut in the view 
seem intolerable. 

The reactions of pleasure or displeasure which have thus 
been recorded in the individual are reactions which have 
been trained in the presence of the natural objects which 
constantly conform to mechanical laws. One's personal 
sympathies thus come to reflect more or less faithfully the 
uniformities which exist in the physical world. 

The demands of mechanics are more imperative than are 
any others in guiding our perception. There are accordingly 
certain aesthetic tendencies which may properly be described 
as derived from contact with the physical world and others 
which are derived from the surroundings which have been 
arranged for us by those who build our houses and bridges 
and plan our parks and gardens. The latter have great 
latitude. It is here that national examples and the work 
of individual artists have taken control. Sometimes the 
national choices have been guided by environmental facts 
which are not out of harmony with mechanics but are 
unrelated to them. The arches of the Gothic cathedral, 


suggested by the forest, represent a devotion of forest-loving 
peoples to their natural environment which is not mechanical 
in any sense of the word. The lotus-flower capital of the 
Egyptian column is another example. 

Thus it comes that taste is guided by mechanical and also 
by other controls. There is a human type of beauty which 
springs from the absorbing interest of every man and woman 
in the other members of the race. How subtly the lines of 
the human figure have reached into our drawing and the 
proportions of the human body have affected ornament and 
recognition of bilateral symmetry can be fully realized only 
by those who have analyzed art to find the sources of that 
which we call appreciation. 

Turning from the discussion of the history of the graphic 
arts, we may close the chapter by considering briefly the ex- 
perience of individuals as they attempt to cultivate personal 
mastery of these arts. In the graphic arts, as in music, there 
appears a division of human effort. There are those who are 
highly trained in the recognition of form and color and are 
absorbed in experimentation with new combinations. There 
are others who can do no more than follow the lead of these 
specialists. Sometimes the following is from afar. The 
specialist always sees the advantage of putting before those 
who are little trained concrete and repeated examples of 
that which is aesthetically preferable. The art specialists 
are constantly asking for opportunities to exhibit that which 
is typical of national taste and that which best comports 
with the demands of mechanical symmetry and balance. 
All of this goes to show that the artist knows that taste 
grows by constant contact with that which controls it. 

The distinction between the common man and the artist 
is somewhat less obtrusive in the field of aesthetics of space 
than in the field of music. To be sure, the distinction exists, 
but spatial objects have a constancy and stability which per- 


mit the artist and the ordinary observer to reach somewhat 
the same level of taste because of the repeated opportunities 
to come in contact with the same kinds of experience. The 
artists in the field of space are somewhat more insistent than 
are the artists in music that there be universal conformity 
to that which they regard as good. 

In spite of the universal character of space experiences, it 
remains true in this sphere of graphic art as in music that in- 
dividuals exhibit a wide range of variability and are readily 
permitted to depart from national standards. A man may 
have a false scale of appreciations of art and his neighbors 
will tolerate him when they would not allow him to have a 
false weight or measure. A man may be eccentric in his tastes 
and he will not be openly reproved, whereas if he adds and 
subtracts incorrectly, society will make its disapproval of his 
ways manifest in unmistakable terms. 

Here, as in the case of music, it is to be noted that there are 
strong motives for the development of the art even though 
society does not insist that every individual take a large 
share in this development. The permanence of the products 
of graphic and constructive art and the consequent possi- 
bility of cumulative judgments of praise or condemnation 
have done more to establish standards here than in those 
arts which are less accessible to general observation. 


Religion more than any other institution has changed its 
status during the progress of civilization. Among barbarous 
tribes the sanctions and dictates of religion were more bind- 
ing than were any of the other controls exercised by the group. 
Indeed, institutional religion was the device to which rulers 
and the wiser members of the community constantly resorted 
as their chief means of governing individuals. This original 
condition of complete domination of all members of the 
community by religion persists even to-day in many parts of 
the world. Among highly civilized nations, however, it has 
come to pass that religion has in the course of time given 
over to custom and law its authority in many matters with 
which it was formerly concerned and has become in large 
measure a body of personal beliefs, emotions, and practices. 

Anyone who is at all familiar with the Old Testament will 
recall the minute detail in which the religion of the Hebrews 
prescribed the diet, hygienic practices, and property rights 
of all classes of society, as well as the social customs to be 
observed in all matters touching the life of the group or the 
family. There is no line which can be drawn between the 
tribal government and religion. Every regulation was attrib- 
uted to divine authority and was enforced by agencies which 
were recognized as representatives of this authority. 

What was true of the Hebrews is true of all early nations 
and without exception of semibarbarous peoples. The hunt- 
ing tribes are bound by all kinds of religious restrictions. 



The warriors of primitive peoples are guided and directed 
by the priests. Every major undertaking of the individual 
is initiated with the most elaborate religious ceremonials. 
Religion touches every aspect of life. 

Highly institutionalized religions are undoubtedly pre- 
ceded by practices which derive their sanctions from the 
natural demands of human association. In many matters 
of hygiene, diet, and family life it is possible to trace religion 
back to certain instinctive tendencies in human nature. The 
thesis has often been defended that religion is the most 
fundamental natural expression of human consciousness. 
For our present purposes it is not necessary to reach any 
decision regarding the origins of religion. Whether religion 
came from the needs and instincts of the individual or from 
some other source, the fact is that at the dawn of history it 
was present as a rigid body of social regulations. It was 
protected and transmitted by a priestly group set apart by 
society for these specific duties. Penalties for the infraction 
of its requirements were so severe that any individual who 
ventured to depart from religious requirements was dealt 
with most severely, not uncommonly to the extent of torture 
and execution. On the other hand, rewards of the most 
unlimited kind were promised to those who obeyed. 

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the presence in 
tribal tradition of a perfectly clear formula of action was a 
source of great relief to many a primitive man when he was 
faced by a crisis. He was told by his religion what to do and 
he was promised a great reward whether he succeeded or not 
in his effort. This simplified matters enormously and re- 
moved the inhibitions which might otherwise have held him 
in check. One almost envies primitive men the kind of 
definiteness of belief which expresses itself in the fanatical 
confidence of the adhererits of primitive religion who torture 
themselves before their idols or even give up their lives in 


complete faith that they are to gain unlimited rewards for 
themselves and their descendants. 

While religion thus takes its place as one of the most 
powerful and primitive of human institutions, it becomes 
obvious from a study of its manifestations that the social 
machinery by which its injunctions are enforced is in no 
sense of the word instinctive or individualistic. Religion 
is the product of group collaboration ; it has been throughout 
the history of the world a check upon individualistic in- 
stinctive action ; it has achieved its highest results by trans- 
forming individual modes of behavior rather than by foster- 
ing instinctive action. 

The history of the race records again and again the trans- 
forming effects of religion on whole tribes and nations. 
Sometimes the transformation is accomplished through the 
teachings and example of some missionary who goes to a 
partially consolidated social group and influences its mem- 
bers to turn their practices in the direction of industry and 
justice. Sometimes religion is forced by military power 
upon a reluctant conquered tribe. In all such cases the final 
stage of religious belief has been a compromise between that 
which was in the minds of men before the new religion came 
and that which the teacher or conqueror regarded as an ideal 
form of institutional practice. 

If the matter needs illustration, let one look up the history 
of the modern celebration of Christmas. It is quite certain 
that the early Christian church did not set the date of the 
nativity in December ; some of the churches observed this 
festival in April or May, some in January. The fact which 
operated to establish the December date now universally 
accepted is that all the northern tribes of Europe look on the 
winter solstice as the most important point in the year. The 
Teutonic tribes held their great feast known as Yule at this 
time to mark their joy at the return of the sun. These tribes 


believed that during the fortnight following the turn of the 
sun they could trace with especial clearness the powerful 
influences of their great deities in the affairs of men. When 
the Christian missionaries sought to bring over the bar- 
barians from their earlier religion to Christianity, they 
adopted the Yule festival as the occasion for special emphasis 
on the life and birth of Christ. They prepared special 
manger songs and carols. They later established the prac- 
tice of dedicating the Christ tree and decorating it with gifts. 

If we think of that which went before Christianity as 
the natural tendencies of the Teutonic tribes, we must think 
of that which was brought about by the missionaries as an 
institutional transformation of these natural tendencies. 
The teachings of the new religion were at variance with the 
warlike traditions of the northern barbarians and as such 
could not be forced at once into their minds. By making 
some concessions in externals to the earlier barbaric customs, 
the Christian teachers were able to inculcate the essentially 
new form of belief and action and to bring about the result 
that the warrior tribes were lifted out of their earlier tend- 
encies and led to adopt wholly new modes of behavior. 
Even when it seems to concede to natural tendencies, insti- 
tutional religion is thus seen to be establishing itself as a new 
and powerful social control. 

This is not the place to attempt an evaluation of religion 
in human history, but it is appropriate for the student of 
the psychology of social institutions to point out that among 
the factors which have been powerful in building up modern 
states and nations, none is more significant than religion. 
The science of geography may describe the effects of climate 
on human life. Economics may describe trade routes and the 
influences of raw materials and money, but more funda- 
mental than all these are the alliances based on religion and 
the wars which have grown out of the incompatibility of 


conflicting systems of belief. Mankind has governed itself 
at every stage by religious institutions. For our study it is 
not the details of particular systems of religion that are 
significant, but the general prevalence of this institutional 
method of control which in one form or another has appeared 
as the dominant influence in every period of history. 

The change which has come in modern times is not so much 
in the fact of social control as it is in the kind of sanction 
to which appeal is made in support of the dictates of the 
group. If modern life is less under the control of priests 
and less attentive to the special ceremonials of the religious 
system than was primitive life, this is due in large measure 
to the fact that the practices which used to be enforced by 
religion are now enforced through other institutions. We 
may describe the evolution which has taken place by saying 
that ethical principles have been extracted from religion and 
have assumed the status of independent social institutions. 
These principles are in many instances made effective 
through government, in others through public opinion. 

The ten commandments of the Hebrews are not by any 
means inoperative in modern society even where they are 
not thought of as dictates of some mysterious supernatural 
power. The social force of the command not to kill is as 
great or even greater than it was in the days of Moses, but 
that force depends to-day on a recognition of the rationality 
of the injunction and on its reiteration in statutory law. A 
wild half -civilized tribe emerging from a long period of cap- 
tivity had to be impressed with the necessity of respecting 
human life. All the appeals to fear of eternal punishment 
which its leader could command were needed to make 
effective the injunction against murder. To-day there is 
a general respect for human life. The generations which 
have lived under the Mosaic law have established a social 
attitude in this matter which primitive man never exhibited. 


The present social attitude finds its support in the habits of 
thought and action of civilized communities and in their 
legal enactments and requires no constant reference to the 

What is true of the explicit command of the Decalog 
against killing is true of a multitude of minor precepts of 
personal hygiene and social intercourse. The half-civilized 
tribe needed to be told in authoritative terms how to keep 
clean and what to do in periods of contagion. These same 
people had to have their weights and measures defined to 
them in terms which it was understood that the priests would 
enforce. As the centuries have passed, and social sanctions 
have gradually become democratic, the appeal to super- 
natural authority has undergone a series of modifica- 
tions. First, the injunction was changed from that of deity 
to a command of deity's representative. The representative 
gradually grew more and more secular and less and less 
infallible. The necessity of rational explanation and justifi- 
cation of social conventions was conceded with increasing 
freedom. The consequences of infraction of society's in- 
junctions were made less drastic and more appropriate to 
the offense. The individual as a result began to govern his 
own attitudes by principles rather than by subservience to 
arbitrary injunctions. Religion evolved into rational sys- 
tems of conduct which retain all that was good in religious 
institutions and are purged of much of the unnecessary and 
artificial ceremonial which surrounded the older practices. 

There remain, and always will remain after such a process 
has gone as far as it can, certain vital problems in human 
life and human thought which cannot be dealt with in purely 
rational terms. For example, it does not seem likely that 
the problem of a future existence will be solved as most of 
the other problems of life are solved by empirical investiga- 
tions. The mind seeks solutions of this problem by foram- 


lating beliefs which are superrational. There is for every 
individual a realm of experience which lies beyond the limits 
of ascertained facts. This extraempirical world is the world 
of purely personal religion. It is usually true that the 
individual mind reaching beyond personally known facts is 
not willing to depend on its own judgments for solutions of 
such momentous problems. Men are so constituted as a 
result of ages of social interdependence that social opinion 
is welcome in the solution even of personal problems. Mod- 
ern man, therefore, finds himself more or less controlled by 
social conventions in spheres of thought which lie outside of 
rationalized thinking. One may be ever so skeptical about 
the existence of a localized heaven, but one's thought will 
always revert to the word and to the idea. It is safe to say 
that there is not a modern man or woman who is not influ- 
enced to some degree in his modes of thinking by the reli- 
gious doctrines accepted by the community in regard to an 
after-life of bliss or distress. 

Religion can be variously defined. It is in part everyday 
behavior. As such it is the root from which have grown 
many of the clearly differentiated ethical and governmental 
institutions of modern life. Again religion must be thought 
of as a body of cooperative efforts to solve the mysteries of 
life. As such it will persist so long as the experiences of 
men carry their thoughts beyond their powers of complete 

Such a formula helps us to understand why in the dawn 
of civilization the religious type of thinking was more 
authoritative than it is in modern life. Natural phenomena 
were in that early day completely shrouded in mystery and 
the solutions of the problems which they presented were 
out of the reach of men more than they are to-day. Primi- 
tive man had only one formula which he could use in trying 
to explain natural facts. That was the formula borrowed 


from his own subjective world, the formula of personal 
volition. Whenever anything happened, he thought of it as 
the doing of some personality like himself. If the happen- 
ing was injurious to him, he attributed it to a malevolent 
purpose on the part of the unknown personality. If it was 
beneficial, he was grateful to some helpful and favoring 

The adoption of the personal formula for the explanation 
of natural phenomena led to a great variety of ceremonies 
which were aimed at propitiation of the unseen and unknown 
sources of sorrow or happiness. The ceremonies were of 
course difficult to direct because the personalities to be 
reached were unknown and their answers were in most 
instances wholly ambiguous. It was very natural under 
these circumstances that men should seek, as do modern 
men and women, the aid of social tradition in dealing with 
these obscure situations. If one is told in the case of disease 
that this or that remedy will be efficacious, it is not at all 
unlikely that one will try the remedy even though there is 
no personal reason for supposing it to be appropriate. So 
it was with primitive man. Disease was brought upon him 
by some remote and mysterious personality. He was 
helpless and in distress. He seized upon any suggestion 
which society offered him. Sometimes the suggestion was 
wholly fantastic. The effect was not always negation even 
in such cases. The ceremony sometimes furnished the basis 
for new courage or subjective composure and while the 
supposed remote personality was a myth, the effort to pro- 
pitiate was helpful and even curative. There were other 
cases in which the suggestions of society, while seemingly 
fantastic, contained germs of genuine rationality. Some of 
the practices of the medicine men were directly aimed at the 
highly advantageous end of bringing the patient into a state 
of perspiration. Social tradition and ceremonial contributed 


in such a case not what they purported to contribute but 
something which served the end better than the originators 

There is in the religion of primitive peoples a kind of con- 
formity to nature which corresponds closely to that phase of 
art which was the subject of discussion in the last chapter, 
where it was pointed out that human experience gradually 
conforms to the laws of nature because these laws are con- 
stantly guiding and checking activities. Religion when 
thought of in the light of that analogy is a series of social 
experiments in the formulation of the rules of conduct. 
When men do not know what to do, they try something. 
This something is often unnecessary and ineffective, but it is 
the human response to an emergency. If in the course of 
ages this process is repeated frequently enough and with the 
variations that are inevitable because of human restlessness, 
it is altogether probable that a ceremonial will be hit upon 
which has in it something that is useful. The useful cere- 
monial thus discovered will not be understood, but it will be 
perpetuated because social tradition will transmit it. Fur- 
ther experimentation will refine it and turn it into a social 

It requires very little examination of primitive religions 
to show that they contain much that is in the sense just 
described both useful and true. The periods when religions 
were reduced to records such as one finds in China and India 
and among the Egyptians and Hebrews were from the point 
of view of human experimentation doubtless relatively 
late. Social practices had matured to the point where 
that which was useful and true preponderated by far over 
that which was artificial and arbitrary. The precepts of 
these religions survive, therefore, as expressions of the race's 
discovery of that which is just and right. 

So long as religious injunctions rest on the basis of blind 


experimentation, there is one abuse to which they are pecul- 
iarly susceptible. They can become, and have in the course 
of history often become, means of promotion of the interests 
of a single group within the social organism. The priestly 
class has always been a powerful class. Its position as cus- 
todian of religion gave it the power of extracting from the 
other classes in society that toll which knowledge and power 
always extract from ignorance and weakness. The priestly 
class, while it had truth and used it at times for the better- 
ment of society, sometimes used it for selfish ends. Religion 
thus becomes an important factor in the political history of 
the world. 

One thinks of the control exercised in Greek affairs by the 
oracle at Delphi. The cleft in the rock and the tripod at 
Delphi are probably reminiscent of the time when sacred 
places were guarded by primitive man as sources of fire, 
that greatest of all equipments of human life. Whatever 
the origin of the sacred place, it is quite certain that the 
pilgrimage thither of people from all parts of Greece soon 
put the priestly custodians of the shrine in possession of 
information which was not assembled at any other point in 
that little group of states. The priests had knowledge. 
That they used it as other human beings would, sometimes 
to the advantage of Greece, but always to the advantage of 
their friends, is not to be wondered at. 

Again, one thinks of the crusades and the political con- 
sequences which flowed from these outbursts of religious 
zeal. Some of the consequences were doubtless accidental, 
but others were quite certainly the results of intrigue or 
political planning. 

The use of religion to support and augment political 
power has come down into modern life in many forms. 
Our own generation has heard the echoes of the dogma of 
divine right of kings which sounds very strange in democratic 


ears but was so frequently repeated to the common people 
of the unhappy lands where it survived that even the de- 
feated nations of to-day half believe it to be a dogma of 

The evolution which it has been the purpose of this chapter 
to outline has at every stage encountered the opposition of 
that group which has vested interest in the maintenance of 
a religion of mystery. It is not to be wondered at, there- 
fore, that emphasis on superpersonal controls still persists 
in some countries in a very intense form. 

In the meantime personal experience, divided between the 
adoption of ethical principles and adherence to religion, and 
often confronted with problems that seem impossible of 
solution by any known methods of rational explanation, 
exhibits a great variety of chaotic forms. William James, 
with his unbounded sympathy for everything human, has 
recorded in his volume on the Varieties of Religious Experi- 
ence a curious collection of human mental struggles. One 
cannot read the book without wondering whether there 
ever was in the world a time when human minds were more 
adrift than to-day in regard to matters of belief. The 
explanation of the situation is to be found most certainly 
in the fact that the old formulas and the old fixed social 
standards of social worship and social belief have been 
superseded by a more comprehensive code of social practices 
and responsibilities. This broader code is, however, at 
many points less dogmatic than were the older religious 
formulas. The individual finds himself as a result adrift 
where he would have been subject to explicit guidance under 
the older system. 

Our consideration of religion has bi ought us, as did our 
study of music and art, to the point where we must recognize 
the fact that social evolution does not in all instances 
compel social conformity. The individual is compelled to 


adopt many of society's institutions in order to live. In 
these days we must all become parts of the economic machin- 
ery of industry and exchange or we shall go hungry. We 
must use language and weights and measures. We must 
learn to be on time. In matters of religion, however, we are 
allowed a degree of freedom unknown in social units of an 
earlier day. We talk about tolerance in religion. We 
practice no tolerance in respect to the Arabic numerals. 
In short, we have brought forth in the course of human 
civilization a modern social solidarity and a modern indi- 



The last three chapters have shown that the institutions 
which are closely related to personal emotions have a history 
wholly different from that of the institutions which deal 
with the more impersonal adjustments of science, trade, and 
mechanics. The use of the word "impersonal," which is 
common in describing the science of mathematics and in 
considering the requirements of punctuality and grammatical 
regularity, shows that we do not think of individual desires 
and needs when we deal with the institutions of number and 
time and language. On the other hand we take individual 
experiences very much into account when we are thinking 
of religion, music, and drawing and painting, and we are 
therefore less likely to speak of these as impersonal. 

It is important, however, for a complete understanding of 
civilization that we do not overlook the fact that even the 
impersonal institutions are very intimately related to emo- 
tional life. In fact, as it will be the aim of this chapter to 
make clear, the evolution of institutions has not merely 
resulted in the development of modes of individual behavior ; 
it has also affected emotions to such an extent that we are 
entirely justified in saying that civilized man has an emo- 
tional equipment which is widely different from that of 
primitive man and the animals. 

By way of illustration let one think of so impersonal an 
institution as money. It can be viewed, and often is viewed, 
wholly from the objective point of view. It then appears 



to be a device invented by society after long experimenta- 
tion to facilitate exchange of labor and goods. It can, 
however, be viewed from the subjective side when it appears 
as the center of eager longings or intense anxiety. 

Emotion is so immediate and vivid a part of human ex- 
perience that it is little wonder that it has received more 
emphasis in the science of psychology than have the institu- 
tions which in our higher civilization are closely related to 
present-day desires. Indeed, the tendency of writers on 
social psychology has been to treat the emotion as the 
primary fact and the institution as the derived fact. Thus 
money has been described as an outgrowth of the love for 
gold or as a creation of the race intended to satisfy its native 
instinct of acquisitiveness. 

This chapter will aim to prove that the types of personal 
emotions which are known to civilized men are products of 
an evolution in which emotions have taken a new direction. 
In the course of this evolution human adaptation to its 
physical and social environment has been going forward. 
The instruments and means of this adaptation are the 
institutions, some of which have been described in foregoing- 
chapters. Each institution as it has become established has 
developed in all individuals who come under its influence a 
mode of behavior and an emotional attitude which conform 
to the institution. The new mode of behavior and the new 
emotional attitude could not have been perfected until the 
institution itself was created. 

The effort of individuals to adapt themselves to institu- 
tional demands results in what may be properly described 
as a wholly new group of pleasures and displeasures. For 
example, if we think of the pleasures which come from read- 
ing literature, it is evident that we are dealing with an 
emotion which could not exist before language was evolved. 
Indeed, the individual must go through a long series of 


educational experiences before he can participate in any 
degree in the higher pleasures of reading. During the 
process of education, the developing individual cultivates 
certain expectations and ultimately nothing will satisfy 
him which does not meet these expectations. Even so 
elementary a demand as that which calls for correct gram- 
matical structure must be met ; but above and beyond this, 
what is read must have verisimilitude and unity and clear- 
ness. If the literary selection conforms to all the elementary 
demands and at the same time appeals to certain personal 
desires which are in keeping with the ambitions of the indi- 
vidual, there results an emotion which can be described in 
general terms as pleasurable but is in a class wholly distinct 
from the pleasures derived from the tastes and odors which 
give satisfaction to the instinctive yearnings for food. 

Some writers have made the mistake at this point of say- 
ing that the pleasures of literature are identical with those 
that come from the senses and from the instinctive forms of 
behavior. The fallacy of identifying the higher and lower 
emotions is the fallacy of taking the emotion out of its organ- 
ized setting. Certain elements of the nervous processes 
may be alike in the higher and the lower emotions, but the 
nervous system is responding in the one case to a stimulus 
which would not affect at all an untrained organism. No 
animal can derive pleasure from literature though the 
animals have all the nervous mechanisms necessary for the 
emotion of pleasure in the presence of agreeable sensations. 
The higher character pf the human enjoyment in this case is 
that which results from a new relation into which the capac- 
ity for enjoyment has been brought by training. 

What is true of satisfactions is true also of disappoint- 
ments. Civilized life has created an infinite variety of new 
forms of distress. For example, the modern business man 
has learned to assume certain responsibilities which go to 


make up that which we call the credit system. If for any 
reason there is the slightest difficulty in meeting his respon- 
sibilities, the business man is thrown into a panic. His 
organic processes of digestion often suffer and not infre- 
quently excitement keeps his nervous system from its nor- 
mal functions of sleep and rest. Contrast with the trained 
business man the shiftless individual who has not taken on 
the ways of civilized industry and commerce. The nerv- 
ous system of the shiftless one is capable of distress and 
responds when food is lacking or when bodily pain is pres- 
ent, but is utterly unaffected by inability to meet financial 
obligations on time. Can such a contrast be considered 
without reaching the conclusion that the emotions of the 
personality trained to accept responsibility are in fact 
different from those of the untrained personality? What 
justification is there for overlooking the fact that the one is 
aroused by one kind of a situation, the other only by simpler 
situations ? The one is responsive to social institutions, the 
other only to physical stimulations. 

The relation of personal emotions to social institutions 
will perhaps be more clearly understood if we review briefly 
what individual psychology has to say about the nature of 
the emotions. It was William James who first gave to 
science an acceptable account of the nature of emotions. 
That account has been cleared of its ambiguities and made 
more serviceable by investigations carried on during the 
last thirty-five years, but in essence the modern view with 
regard to the nature of the emotions is that contributed to 
psychology by James. 

This accepted view is that whenever the nervous system 
of an individual is stimulated, there is set up a train of 
excitations which issue in some form of action. Either the 
glands of the body respond or muscles change their ten- 
sion or both series of reactions unite in a complex form of 


behavior. These organic reactions to stimulation are the 
individual's efforts to achieve self-preservation in the pres- 
ence of his environment. In the inner world of experience 
there is an emotion as the mental counterpart of the system 
of reaction. To repeat James' statement : 

If we fancy some strong emotion and then try to abstract from 
our consciousness of it all the feelings of its bodily symptoms, we 
find we have nothing left behind. 1 

Present-day psychologists go further than did James. 
Not only are emotions to be explained by motor processes, 
but there are no motor processes in the individual's life 
which are not paralleled by some kind of emotional experi- 
ence. Feelings of familiarity, of approbation, and of dissent 
accompany our various attitudes and responses to stimula- 
tions. There is no sense impression without reaction and no 
reaction that is not reflected in the conscious emotional 
life of the individual. 

With this general idea in mind, let us consider some of the 
examples with which the psychology of social institutions is 
concerned. Employers have found that laborers often 
become ineffective because they worry about old age. Put 
in institutional terms, the situation is this. The modern 
man sees that the economic organization of society is such 
that he can have food and shelter and comfort only when he 
obeys orders and appears each morning at the blowing of the 
whistle. This same man knows that the time is coming 
in his own old age when response to the whistle is going 
to be out of his personal power. This knowledge serves to 
arouse within him certain emotions which are paralleled by 
reactions. These reactions do not reinforce the particular 
activities which he is executing at the moment. Indeed, 

1 JAMES, WILLIAM The Principles of Psychology, II, p. 451 ; Henry Holt 
& Co., 1890. 


the present performances for which society is paying him 
and his private reactions to the idea of impending old age 
get sadly confused, and the work which ought to be going 
forward with whole-hearted devotion is interrupted. The 
idea of old age is thus sometimes enough to destroy individual 

To the individual who exhibits the phenomena described 
in the foregoing paragraph, the whole situation is present in 
consciousness as an agonizing emotion. The more he tries 
to work at to-day's task, the more unhappy he is because of 
the conflict between his job and his fears. Yet he knows that 
if he gives himself up to the distressing ideas and their 
contemplation, the social agencies which drive the wheels 
of industry will grip him. The inner world of the laborer 
becomes finally an intolerable chaos. The physician or the 
philanthropist who looks at this distracted man from the 
outside may describe him in cold scientific terms as a victim 
of hysteria and may classify his inner state as that of fear, 
but to the man himself the world is a universe of conflicting 

Again, let us take another type of industrial situation 
which has of late come to be recognized as of the largest 
significance. In the old days when men worked, each with 
his own tools and each producing something which bore the 
mark of his personal craftsmanship, there was a glow of pride 
and self-satisfaction at the completion of each task which 
left the worker ready to take up with enthusiasm and devo- 
tion the next undertaking. When we describe this situation 
from the outside, we say that craftsmanship is possible only 
when the product carries the mark of the worker's skilled 
individuality. To the worker himself this situation is one 
warm with emotional coloring. The thing that leaves his 
hand is not merely an object ; it is much more ; it is a center 
of all the reactions of satisfaction which follow success. 


Now comes the modern system of standardized cooperative 
manufacture. Enormous gains have been effected by the 
new system so far as mechanical precision and efficiency of 
construction are concerned, but let us look into the inner 
world of the worker's mind. We find there none of the 
satisfaction which comes from reactions of pride and owner- 
ship. The inner world is robbed of zest and enthusiasm. 
The individual seeking substitutes for the satisfactions which 
came in earlier days as a part of the craft invents new forms 
of what may be called institutionalized excitement. If one 
cannot be proud of one's work, one can be proud of one's 
clothes or of one's automobile or of one's social influence in 
a lodge. The inner world emptied of one kind of satisfac- 
tion begins to fill up with others. Or, if no form of satis- 
faction is readily found, there come a bitterness, a reaction 
of resentment, and a disposition to recoil against present 
conditions. The inner world of personal emotions is in 
either case a very real fact in the worker's life. 

The descriptions which have been given of emotions 
aroused by the economic system could be paralleled in every 
sphere of social life and contact with social institutions. 
For example, in the sphere of social communication one 
tries to express ideas in forceful language and suffers from 
a lack of words. One listens to someone whose command 
of language seems to suffer no such limitations. Both ex- 
periences are more than mere facts of human speech. They 
are indeed phenomena for the lexicographer and for the 
student of philology, but to the individual involved they 
are sources of emotions of irritations and of satisfactions. 

Again, consider the innumerable examples which turn up 
in the world of aesthetics and religion. One passes a church 
built in some cheap and gaudy design, the evident blunder 
of an ignorant contractor who posed as an architect. The 
external fact can be described in a thousand ways. We may 


say that the church violates all the traditions of ecclesiastical 
construction and is inappropriate in form and decoration to 
the purpose for which it is to be used. Or turning from such 
an external fact, we may speak in terms of inner reaction and 
say that our sensibilities trained by contact with structures 
suited to the feelings of devotion are violated by the hideous 
thing which runs counter to all the cultivated expectations 
and stirs up all the resentment which can possibly be be- 
stowed on an object lacking in proportion and calm and 

Much recent psychology has been content to treat such 
emotional excitements as manifestations of instincts. It 
would be equally appropriate for the biological sciences to 
withdraw from the study of life on the ground that chemistry 
is acquainted with all of the elements which enter into the 
composition of living bodies. The fear of old age may have 
in it elements similar to those which animals experience in 
the presence of an enemy, but the fear of old age is part of a 
complex experience in which economic demands and harrow- 
ing imaginations and thoughts of injustice must be included 
before an adequate scientific explanation can be given of 
what takes place in the suffering individual's mind and body. 
Psychology must deal with the total situation if it is to be 
true to the facts. It cannot stop with an account, however 
valid, of the beginnings of individual emotional life; it 
must give an account of the stages by which these begin- 
nings have been superseded by higher complexes of emotion 
which in turn are aroused by causes that would never have 
been effective in arousing instinctive reactions. 

When enthusiasts for instinct psychology have seen the 
inadequacy of an appeal to the lowest levels of reaction they 
have sometimes introduced the concept of conditioned re- 
flexes. This concept is supposed to explain acquired reac- 
tions and the higher emotions by referring to the fact that 


any form of instinctive behavior of which the animal is 
capable may be attached by training to a stimulus which 
was originally wholly unrelated to the instinct. For ex- 
ample, a reflex or instinctive response which originally was 
aroused by a blow may through training be aroused by the 
sound of a bell. All that is necessary is that the bell shall 
be sounded for a certain number of times at the same instant 
that the blow is struck and the reaction called out. Con- 
ditioned reactions are thus thought of as natural instinctive 
reactions which in the course of life are transferred and 
made parts of systems of experience to which they were 
originally quite foreign. 

Even if one accepts without qualification the formula of 
conditioned reactions as satisfactory for the explanation of 
the fears and other emotions of adult life there still remains 
the important fact that much of this transferring of reactions 
has been accomplished through the operation of definite 
causes which are themselves products of mental effort. The 
transfer of fear to the idea of old age requires the considera- 
tion not only of fear and of the idea of old age, but also of the 
economic system which induces the transfer. The economic 
system as we have seen is the product of a social evolution 
which cannot be explained without an appeal to the facts of 
human intelligence and human cooperation. 

Perhaps it will be better to avoid such elaborate arguments 
as the foregoing and meet the advocates of instinct psy- 
chology on their own ground. Let us therefore turn to a 
brief consideration of the physiology of fear and a study of 
the conditions which appear when fear manifests itself. 

One of the simplest cases of fear is that which appears 
when an infant or an animal hears a loud, strange sound. 
Under these circumstances the incoming stimulus enters the 
ear, passes through the central nervous system, and goes 
out along the motor nerve fibers. The outgoing stimulation 


is directed to what may be called a general preparation. 
Since the sound is unfamiliar this preparation is possible 
only in a very indefinite way ; the order sent to the active 
organs of the body from the nervous system calls all the 
resources of the body into play. The glands begin to work 
and the muscles tighten up all around. The action of the 
glands throws adrenalin into the blood, thus putting the 
body in a better chemical condition to act ; sugar is called 
out from the body's reserve and carried by the circulatory 
system to the muscles so that they may be prepared to 
resist fatigue. The blood stream is set intp more vigorous 
motion. The greatest possible supply of blood is taken to 
the central nervous system so that there may be a keenness 
and readiness of response when the object heralded by the 
sound arrives. Another large supply of blood is carried to 
the muscles so as to cooperate in the support of vigorous 
action. In short, the sound leads to a preparation of the 
whole inner organism for strenuous action. While all this 
preparation for action is going on, there is a quicker flow of 
inner experiences known only to the mind, which has its seat 
in the excited nervous system. This inner experience will 
take on various colorings as the process goes on. If the body 
responds well to the summons to prepare, and if action begins 
when the strange sound comes nearer, the emotional experi- 
ence will be one of exultation in the readiness for action. 
There will be a thrill of response. If, on the other hand, the 
preparatory reactions within the organism conflict with one 
another, if one set of contracting muscles drives the body 
forward and another pulls the body back, if the secretions 
of the glands are excessive or the circulation of the blood too 
rapid, an internal condition of chaos may result. If, as the 
sound continues, the opportunity for effective action does not 
appear, and if the preparation issues in no definite response 
but continues in a general way and increases the conflicting 


oscillations between forward movement and retreat, the 
conscious experience of the individual may become one of 
violent agitation and distress. 

Come back now to the man who has an idea of old age. 
This, too, is a warning. It came into the worker's nervous 
system, not as a simple sound, premonitory of possible 
danger, but as an exciting stimulus for which there is no 
familiar response, and in this respect it is like the unrecog- 
nized sound, and, furthermore, like the sound, it calls for 
preparation. So the muscles become tense, the adrenalin 
pours into the blood, and the blood surges to the brain and 
muscles. All is ready for the next step. Note in passing 
that this physiological preparation for old age is not unlikely 
to have broken the thread that was in the weaver's hand 
as he plied the industry of modern life, or it may have led 
to the dropping of the wrench with which he was about to 
tighten the bolt that his trade had intrusted to him. What- 
ever the consequences in the world of routine, the idea of 
old age runs its inner physiological course because human 
nature is so constructed that a warning leads to preparatory 
tension. What happens next ? Is the preparation a source 
of exultation as it was in primitive life ? Does the thrill of 
action issue in some exhilarating hand-to-hand encounter? 
Does the thrill of action lead to flight? The pathetic fact 
is that there are in modern conventionalized life no hand- 
to-hand encounters, no escapes through swift running. The 
worker sits before his machine full of preparation. His 
muscles grow more and more tense. Adrenalin flows out 
of his glands in sickening excess. Blood is supplied to the 
brain and only excites a more vivid idea of the horrors of old 
age. The inner world in such a condition as this is certainly 
not filled with the thrill of action; it is desolate with the 
tension of fear. 

We must pause for a moment to comment once more on 


the fact that much current psychology speaks of fear as a 
primary emotion. Indeed at times one gets from the litera- 
ture the impression that fear is thought of as a cause in 
itself. Men are supposed to be driven hither and thither 
by this strange thing. All this is the fallacious teaching of 
a psychology which was devised by an individual who was 
limited to observation of his own inner experience. From 
the point of view of inner experience, fear when it comes is the 
only fact visible on the horizon. But we were not made by 
nature to go skulking through a world of fearsome darkness. 
The fact is that fear is one of those secondary necessities 
which follow on the evolution of a highly sensitive and 
highly effective organism. So long as the organism performs 
its primary functions, its sensitivity and its readiness for 
response are distinctly advantageous. The delicate mech- 
anism can, however, encounter situations which are not 
those to test its efficiency but rather those to test its endur- 
ance. Fear is the trial of a delicate mechanism. 

We are told by the alienists that fear is one of the increas- 
ing dangers of civilization. We find people everywhere 
interested in religious cults which offer relief from secret 
fears. We find, when we become intimately acquainted with 
those about us, that strange fears are harbored in most 
lives, curious fears for which anyone except the frightened 
individual has great difficulty in developing any sympathy, 
persistent fears for which there is no adequate explanation 
in the objective world. 

There are two outstanding facts in modern life which 
contribute much to an explanation of the prevalence of fear. 
First we lead a less strenuous life than did any generation that 
ever lived. The luxuries of a modern mechanical civiliza- 
tion have put us so far beyond the primitive needs which kept 
men busy in earlier days that we can hardly find enough real 
channels for the discharge of our well-nourished muscles and 


nerve cells. We are, as a result, constantly going through 
preparatory stages of action which are never consummated. 
We have what must be called fears of imagination ; that is, 
unnecessary muscular contractions and glandular secretions 
which begin in response to ideas but from the nature of 
the case can never be effective forms of behavior because the 
situations for which they were intended never arise. 

A second fact no less important than the first is that the 
individual is daily becoming less and less able to cope by 
personal reactions with the forces which man's inventive 
genius has released in the world. The day was when 
production and distribution of the things which are needed 
for life and comfort were very direct and open to observation. 
Men saw the winter's supply of food and knew where it 
came from and felt the delight which was inspired by con- 
fidence that provision had been made for a long future. 
Now all that is changed. The winter's food supply is some- 
where out of sight and out of the individual's control. So- 
ciety has created a world of superindividual life, but that 
does not help the individual nervous system. When the 
question arises what our family is to do if the economic 
system in the midst of which we live does not bring us the 
winter's food, there often seems to be nothing to do but let 
the blood surge through the brain and the muscles tighten up. 

Even more, society has decreed that our private fears shall 
not be expressed. This decree is in the interests of general 
comfort. We live in such compact groups that if everybody 
gave violent expression to all his emotions, the draft on 
collective sympathy would be intolerable. In order that the 
world's work may go on, therefore, society has told each 
individual to train himself to keep the tightening of his 
muscles as much as possible to himself. The result is that 
in our effort to avoid sharing fears we suffer from a surplus 
of strictly private reaction. 


Does not this description of fear in its modern setting make 
it evident that the function of emotion and its significance 
for individual life have been wholly changed by the transfer 
of man from the forest into the factory ? Fear in the forest 
is part of a general pattern of life. It is part of the organ- 
ized scheme of self -protection of a being who lives by hand- 
to-hand encounters and flight. Fear in the factory is part 
of a totally different pattern. It is aroused by new causes ; 
it runs a new and ineffective course ; it leads to new con- 
sequences ; it is a type of psychological fact different from 
primitive fear. 

There are other emotions which, like fear, have been 
much emphasized in recent literature. We may take an 
extract from a very interesting book, which is somewhat 
above the level of a great deal of the modern sociology, but 
is nevertheless guilty in the most flagrant degree of the 
fallacy of regarding social phenomena as secondary, and 
instincts and emotions as primary. The following lengthy 
quotation is typical of the whole book which carries the title 
Personality and Social Adjustment. 

The pugnacious instinct, with its corresponding emotion, anger, 
is another member of the ego hierarchy. When self-assertion is 
seriously hampered, anger or fear originates. Anger is the ag- 
gressive reaction to attacks upon self-interest ; fear is the contrary 
reaction connected with self-preservation. Anger leads one to 
assail the offender ; fear impels retreat. The angry man tries to 
fight; the frightened person attempts to get away from the im- 
pending danger. Both fear and anger are violent reactions, each 
being one of the strongest emotional experiences known to human 
experience. In rage, the entire personality is captive to the 
emotion that has resulted from the reduction of self-feeling. The 
evolutionary value of rage has of course been great, since in primi- 
tive times it has secured the survival of those who have been most 
forcefully driven by this emotion to the attack. Thus anger in 
the earlier history of men had a greater significance than at present 


as a factor of social survival. Its significance is still great and its 
importance both in personal and group behavior is largely open to 

Anger has had such biological meaning that the organism has 
been adjusted to the emotion so as to produce under its influence 
the maximum strength of the body. The muscles become tense. 
The jaw sets. The body advances. The teeth show themselves 
after the manner of the lower animals. The blood is affected 
chemically by adrenalin, the product of the adrenal gland, in a 
way that tends to prevent the realization of fatigue. It is thought 
also that the adrenalin aids the coagulation of the blood and 
thereby reduces the risk of haemorrhage when the individual be- 
comes wounded. In other words, anger prepares the body for the 
fighting function. 

Watson tells us that anger in its earliest childhood expression is 
related to situations that hamper the infant's movements. For 
example, the holding of the child's head produces in him at once 
the physical expressions of rage. The child starts crying, the 
body stiffens, the arms and legs correlate in striking movements, 
the breath is held until the face of the child reddens. From birth, 
almost any baby can be thrown into a rage by holding its arms 
tightly to its sides. Anyone who has hampered a young child 
in any of its body movements can testify to the ease with which 
anger can be produced. 

Although anger produces in the body its maximum fighting 
strength, it nevertheless frequently so clouds judgment that in the 
contests characteristic of modern life, fierce anger may act as a 
handicap in a struggle. The prize fighter, for example, who loses 
his temper is likely to suffer defeat as a consequence of his im- 
pulsive, imprudent actions. This explains the purpose of those 
who in an athletic contest attempt to stir up anger in their oppo- 
nents. Anger in spite of its energizing quality interferes with skill 
and the self-control necessary for successful competition. This 
illustrates the decreasing value of anger in modern life. 

The risk of temper is so generally recognized that parents usu- 
ally attempt from the beginning to train children not to give way 
to anger. No instinct receives more social coercion ; no instinct 


is more frowned upon by parents and teachers than is pugnacity. 
The child is forced very early to attempt the control of anger. 
Morality, religion, law, public opinion, continue the repression 
which began in the home. Society at every point puts its stamp 
of disapproval upon exhibitions of anger in the ordinary associa- 
tions of life. We cover up as far as possible any outward evidence 
of our anger unless we feel sure that it will be shared by our as- 
sociates or unless we know it will be recognized as so devoid of 
personal attitude as to be considered righteous indignation. We 
impose upon ourselves penance after the manner of 0. Henry's 
husband, who always after indulging in a family row gave to his 
wife something eagerly coveted by her. Therefore, he was pur- 
posely enraged by his wife that she might enjoy the proceeds of 
her matrimonial strategy. Those of tender conscience fight even 
the faintest suggestion of anger and perhaps by the process of re- 
pression create complexes that find eventually some circuitous 
method of expressing the long-pent-up emotion. 

It is certainly one of the constant strains of modern life that so 
many situations irritate and lead naturally to the emotion of 
anger while social opinion is at the same time restricting its ex- 
pression. The body machinery is put in preparation for the old- 
time primitive attack, and the individual, well-trained by years 
of social discipline, hardly lifts an eye-lid. 1 

The descriptive account given by the author of the fore- 
going pages is admirable, but when this sort of thing is 
offered as an explanation of social adjustments, it becomes 
positively misleading. Furthermore, the formula of repres- 
sion, without any statement of how or why repression is to 
be accomplished, does not furnish society with a positive 
program. It may, indeed, be true that parents warn 
children against being angry, and prize-fighters try to keep 
their tempers, but this is only the last paragraph of a long 
story. What society has in reality accomplished in the long 

1 GROVES, ERNEST R. Personality and Social Adjustment, pp. 102-104 ; 
Longmans, Green & Co., 1923. 


ages is the substitution for the method of settling disputes 
through personal combat another method, the method of 
intelligent social discussion, the method of clear and precise 
adjustment of values through the use of adequate standards, 
the method of collective judgment as distinguished from out- 
bursts of personal preference. Even in prize fighting, the 
reason the contestant keeps his temper is because it has been 
found much easier and safer to parry an opponent's blows by 
calmly and intelligently watching his eyes and preparing for 
attack in the direction in which he looks, than to give him the 
advantage which comes from a blind and undirected waste 
of energy in all directions. 

The secret of social adjustment is the development of new 
and indirect methods of dealing with situations. These new 
methods are the embodiments of the long wisdom of the 
ages and are, therefore, superior to anything which can be 
suddenly devised by an individual and to anything which 
can be transmitted through the relatively simple processes 
of physical heredity. It is only when social adjustments 
are distinctly superior to instinctive adjustments that the 
former will supersede the latter. As a matter of fact, social 
adjustment has proved itself to be infinitely superior to 
instinct in providing mastery over nature and in giving 
men, as contrasted with most animals, the advantages of co- 
operation, but the individual organism has to go through a 
long course of training before it behaves as it should in view 
of these facts. 

What does one do when one tries to overcome anger? 
Does not the intelligent course in such a case lie in the direc- 
tion of a mastery of a new mode of behavior which leads one 
to use some of the devices of civilization rather than teeth 
and fists ? 

An especially striking example of the civilized method of 
dealing with situations which formerly produced anger is to 


be seen in the modern treatment of criminals. Formerly 
anyone who trampled on the rights of others was dealt with 
in summary fashion. It became the duty in primitive society 
of one who had suffered injury to take vengeance on the 
criminal. Later, society took vengeance through its agents. 
To-day, society deals with the criminal through constituted 
courts of law where judges do not get angry. Modern 
society undertakes by measures of an educational and 
reformatory type to correct the unsocial tendencies of the 
criminal. Anger and vengeance have been replaced by 
social devices which are more promising of effective results. 

When anger appears in civilized society, it is a symptom 
of inability to deal with the situation by any of the better 
and more effective methods. The angry man is usually the 
man who is impotent. The nervous excitement which is 
stirred up by the situation that makes one angry is not 
carried off into motor channels of effective response and, as 
in the case of fear, the violent emotion is to be explained by 
internal tensions and forms of glandular action which are 
preparatory but ineffective. The antidote for anger is to 
begin doing something which will correct the situation. 

When anger persists in civilized life, it is often directed 
toward situations which are unknown in primitive life. One 
gets angry in modern society when one is accused of being a 
liar. One gets angry when one hears of an injustice where 
the strong have taken advantage of the weak. In these 
cases the subject of anger is wholly different from the 
subjects to which the original reactions of anger were applied 
by nature. One cannot properly remove the imputation of 
falsehood by exercising physical vengeance on the accuser. 
The natural brute impulse has become dislocated because 
man lives in a world where ethical standards are dominant. 
The way to deal with this accusation is not to fight but to 
prove the truth of what one has said. Anger is not effective 


from any point of view in such a case. So far as it appears at 
all, it shows that nervous and muscular reactions have been 
initiated which do not fit the demands of the present situation. 

It is certainly not in keeping with the facts to assert that 
anger has been the impelling force which has driven human 
society to organize courts of justice and policing agencies. 
Anger is not a force ; it is a symptom of a condition. It is 
the subjective side of a certain physiological preparation for 
action. It is a secondary fact, the primary fact being an 
organized tendency to react. This organized tendency to 
react may be simple as in the case of animals ; it may be 
directed by the immediate physical environment as it usually 
is in animals ; or it may be of the modified type which has 
been cultivated by civilized man who is surrounded by social 
institutions. The most highly organized reactions evolved 
in response to civilized surroundings will have certain pre- 
paratory stages which may result in emotions like anger or 
fear. The truly civilized emotions are, however, not those 
which accompany incipient behavior or ineffective effort, 
but the emotions of exultation at the successes of skill and 
emotions of delight which come from observing the well- 
coordinated operations of harmonious society. That anger 
persists in modern life should not blind us to the fact that 
accompanying every one of the higher forms of civilized 
behavior there is a higher form of civilized emotion. 

Another example which justifies criticism of the instinct- 
emotion theory of society may be taken from McDougall, 
who started the fashion of looking for causes of social evolu- 
tion in individual instincts and emotions. McDougall can be 
convicted out of his own writings, as will be readily seen by 
the careful reader of the following extract from his Social 

After giving the most detailed account of the various hu- 
man instincts McDougall is speculating late in his book on 


the way in which the earliest forms of organized human so- 
ciety came into being. He assumes the existence of what he 
calls the primal law the command of a patriarch who rules 
over a polygamous family which is subject to his will. Mc- 
Dougall assumes that at maturity the young males have been 
banished because of the patriarch's jealousy. These ban- 
ished males are constantly trying by combat to replace the 
patriarch. But the youths must proceed with caution. 

For offence against the " primal law " meant death to the of- 
fender, unless he proved himself more than a match for the patri- 
arch. Hence the ruthless pugnacity of the patriarch must have 
constantly weeded out the more reckless of his male progeny, 
those least capable of restraining their sexual impulse under the 
threat of his anger. Fear, the great inhibitor, must have played 
a great part in inducing observance of the " primal law " ; and it 
might be suggested that the principal effect of the enforcement of 
this law must have been to increase by selection the power of this 
restraining instinct. But those males who failed to engage in 
combat would never succeed in transmitting their too timorous 
natures to a later generation ; for by combat alone could the head- 
ship of a family be obtained. Hence this ruthless selection among 
the young males must have led to the development of prudence, 
rather than to the mere strengthening of the instinct of fear. 

Now, prudent control of an impulse implies a much higher type 
of mental organisation, a much greater degree of mental inte- 
gration, than is implied by the mere inhibition of an impulse 
through fear. No doubt the instinct of fear plays a part in such 
prudent control, but it implies also a considerable degree of de- 
velopment of self-consciousness and of the self-regarding senti- 
ment, a capacity for deliberation and the weighing of motives in 
the light of self-consciousness. If an individual has such capaci- 
ties, a moderate strength of the fear-impulse will suffice to restrain 
the sex-impulse more effectively than a very strong fear-impulse 
operating in a less-developed ipind. The operation of the " primal 
law " will, therefore, have tended to secure that the successful rival 
of the patriarch should have strong instincts of sex and of pug- 


nacity, and a but moderately strong fear-instinct, combined with 
the more developed mental organisation that permits of delibera- 
tion and of control of the stronger impulses through the organised 
cooperation of the weaker impulses. That is to say, it was a condi- 
tion which secured for the family community a succession of patri- 
archs, each of whom was superior to his rivals, not merely in power 
of combat, but also and chiefly in power of far-sighted control of 
his impulses. Each such patriarch, becoming the father of the suc- 
ceeding generation, will then have transmitted to it in some degree 
his exceptional power of self-control. In this way the " primal 
law/' enforced by the fiercest passions of primitive man, may have 
prepared human nature for the observance of laws less brutally 
and ruthlessly enforced, may, in short, have played a great part 
in developing in humanity that power of self-control and law- 
abidingness which was the essential condition of the progress of 
social organisation. 

If we consider human societies at a later stage of their develop- 
ment, we shall see that the pugnacious instinct has played a 
similar part there also. And in this case we are not compelled to 
rely only on speculative hypotheses, but can find inductive sup- 
port for our inference in a comparative study of existing savage 

When in any region social organisation had progressed so far 
that the mortal combat of individuals was replaced by the mortal 
combat of tribes, villages, or groups of any kind, success in com- 
bat and survival and propagation must have been favored by, and 
have depended upon, not only the vigor and ferocity of individual 
fighters, but also, and to an even greater degree, upon the capac- 
ity of individuals for united action, upon good comradeship, upon 
personal trustworthiness, and upon the capacity of individuals to 
subordinate their impulsive tendencies and egoistic promptings 
to the ends of the group and to the commands of the accepted 
leader. Hence, wherever such mortal conflict of groups prevailed 
for many generations, it must have developed in the surviving 
groups just those social and moral qualities of individuals which 
are the essential conditions of all effective cooperation and of the 
higher forms of social organisation. For success in war implies 


definite organisation, the recognition of a leader, and faithful 
observance of his commands ; and the obedience given to the war- 
chief implies a far higher level of morality than is implied by the 
mere observance of the " primal law" or of any other personal pro- 
hibition under the threat of punishment. A leader whose followers 
were bound to him by fear of punishment only would have no 
chance of success against a band of which the members were bound 
together and to their chief by a true conscientiousness arising from 
a more developed self-consciousness, from the identification of the 
self with the society, and from a sensitive regard on the part of 
each member for the opinion of his fellows. 

Such conflict of groups could not fail to operate effectively in 
developing the moral nature of man ; those communities in which 
this higher morality was developed would triumph over and exter- 
minate those which had not attained it in equal degree. And the 
more the pugnacious instinct impelled primitive societies to war- 
fare, the more rapidly and effectively must the fundamental social 
attributes of men have been developed in the societies which sur- 
vived the ordeal. 

It is not easy to analyse these moral qualities and to say exactly 
what elements of the mental constitution were involved in this 
evolution. In part the advance must have consisted in a further 
improvement of the kind we have supposed to be effected by the 
operation of the " primal law," namely, a richer self-consciousness, 
and increased capacity for control of the stronger primary impulses 
by the cooperation of impulses springing from dispositions organ- 
ised about the idea of the self. It may also have involved a rela- 
tive increase of strength of the more specifically social tendencies, 
namely, the gregarious instinct, the instincts of self-assertion and 
subjection, and the primitive sympathetic tendency; the increase 
of strength of these tendencies in the members of any social group 
would render them capable of being more strongly swayed by re- 
gard for the opinions and feelings of their fellows, and so would 
strengthen the influence of the public opinion of the group upon 
each member of it. 1 

1 McDouGALL, WILLIAM Social Psychology, pp. 285-288. Methuen & Co., 


It seems very extraordinary that McDougall, after recog- 
nizing how inadequate primal law is as an explanation of the 
moral code, should fall back on other instincts or primal laws 
such as he mentions in the last paragraph quoted, namely, 
"the gregarious instinct, the instincts of self-assertion and 
subjection, and the primitive sympathetic tendency. 77 Why 
not give up this obsession for finding the whole of society 
in the primary modes of individual behavior and recognize 
once for all that civilization consists in the cultivation of 
prudence and cooperation and that society has created 
certain institutions such as economic wealth and govern- 
ment as devices for promoting the cultivation of prudence 
and social harmony and has insisted that men be not con- 
trolled by any of the primal laws ? 

McDougall has supplied the descriptive words which are 
necessary for the statement of this view. The young 
warriors when attempting to overcome the patriarch culti- 
vate self-control. Surely this is something new as contrasted 
with pugnacity. They cultivate prudence, and one might 
go on to say they develop a desire to establish justice and 
organize society so that there shall be a recognition of equity 
and mutual forbearance. In short, they substitute institu- 
tional control for instinct. 

The same lesson can be derived from a reconsideration 
of the illustration, introduced in earlier paragraphs, of the 
worker frightened by the thought of old age. This man is 
very little benefited by any of the forms of behavior supplied 
by his natural bodily reactions. It is much more social and 
much more appropriate for him to be induced to take out 
old-age insurance. The idea will then issue not in an in- 
stinctive form of behavior but in a highly organized train of 
institutionalized acts. On the way to such a complete 
solution business houses have found it advantageous to set 
up schemes of saving and bonuses for long-time faithful 


service. These cannot be described as instinctive forms of 
protective reaction. They must be described by saying that 
cooperative wisdom has shown that the idea of old age can 
be made to express itself advantageously only when society 
provides social solutions for situations which are created by 
social organization. 

Strong emotions arise only where there is protracted ten- 
sion. Tension implies a process of adjustment during which 
the individual is striving to adapt himself to his environment. 
Strong emotion therefore means that there is for the time 
being some failure of the individual to adjust his relations 
with his surroundings. The natural effort of the excited 
individual is always in a direction which will terminate the 
excitement. Looked at from the point of view of the inner 
subjective world, excitement and the effort to extricate 
oneself from the exciting situation are the all-important and 
primary facts. Looked at from the point of view of the 
science which aims to explain the individual and his be- 
havior, the emotion is a very secondary fact. The primary 
facts are the environmental condition which created the 
demand for a response on the part of the individual and the 
responses which the individual cultivates in meeting the 

It is not surprising that psychology has magnified the 
importance of emotions. Psychology naturally begins with 
the world as seen from the introspective point of view. It 
will be a long step in the direction of the scientific explanation 
of human nature when the introspective evaluation of 
emotion is superseded by a recognition of the fact that the 
psychological environment outside the individual is quite as 
important in guiding human action as are the internal tend- 
encies which were born with the individual. 



A discussion of the place of science among human institu- 
tions must begin by combating the prevalent notion that 
science is something quite apart from social conventions. 
The student of physics or chemistry is likely to be somewhat 
extravagant in his assertions of his independence of human 
nature. He is likely to think of society as something which 
is perhaps interesting and fairly consistent in its operations 
but certainly not capable of affecting the scientific definition 
of the natural forces which he catalogues and measures. 

To the antisocial attitude of many of the students of 
science can be opposed certain impressive historical facts. 
Science is very recent. Why is this? The answer is that 
until modern times men had no methods of making and 
recording exact measurements. It was necessary as a 
human preliminary to scientific measures that men should 
for long ages quarrel in simple barter and in primitive com- 
merce and build with crude instruments in order that they 
might evolve weights and measures. Until this long train- 
ing of men through unscientific transactions could produce 
a new mental attitude the attitude of interest in exact 
evaluations there could be no science. 

Not only so, but science is impossible without ready means 
of making and preserving records. The evolution of lan- 
guage to the point where discriminating expressions could be 
selected and descriptions could be formulated with accuracy 



was a condition antecedent to the development of modern 
science. The physicist of to-day owes much to even the 
most highly speculative imaginings of the ancients, because 
from that source came the discriminating use of words. 
Words also must be recorded and records must be made ac- 
cessible. The most enthusiastic advocate of natural science 
will recognize, if his attention can be captured for a little 
time, that modern science is dependent for its rapid rise and 
spread on the art of printing, which makes possible such 
records as are found in scientific journals. He may be un- 
willing to follow this admission to its logical limits, but the 
printing of a scientific journal is nothing more nor less than 
a social achievement. 

These historical facts are, however, comparatively superfi- 
cial though not unimportant. The fundamental fact is that 
science is a method of thinking which the race has evolved 
through a long history of comparison and criticism of social 
experience. When the first men experienced a thunderstorm 
or gathered around a fire, their minds were filled with modes 
of thinking which could in no measure support the structure 
of modern science. Primitive men were individualistic in 
their every thought and attitude. They projected them- 
selves into every movement which they saw in nature. 
Their attention was fastened on items which touched merely 
their own personal comfort. They were, like children, unable 
to distinguish between what they saw and what they felt. 

Starting from an utterly unscientific view of the world, 
men have blundered through long ages in the effort to evolve 
a view of the world different from that which was possible 
to primitive man. One of the chief motives for this progress 
has been the desire to arrive at social agreements. Men 
did not become scientific at first because of a desire to be 
better artisans. They started on the road toward science 
through the desire to be better story-tellers. It is mythol- 


ogy, not artisanship, which is the first ancestor of science. 
The great body of ignorant speculation in which men 
indulged when they explained to one another and to their 
children where the solid earth came from, where the sun goes 
at night, why the moon changes its shape, is the source of 
science. Science could not begin until men commenced to 
ask the kinds of critical questions which naturally arose out 
of these speculations, and science could not express its truths 
until men gained experience in formulating in language 
trains of more or less coherent ideas. 

This is not the place to attempt a history of science nor 
yet an exposition of the logic of science. It is appropriate, 
however, to extend the foregoing references to history by 
pointing out that all of the present-day categories which 
serve science are drawn from human modes of thought 
rather than from the world of things. When the scientist 
uses such a word as "force," he is consciously employing an 
abstract idea which he has thought out in his effort to develop 
a clear method of considering a body of widely differing 
concrete facts which he groups together. 

One of the masters of modern scientific method has ex- 
pressed this idea very clearly in the following paragraph : 

Our discussion of these spacial conceptions will the better have 
enabled the reader to appreciate the nature of scientific concep- 
tions in general. Geometrical surface, atom, ether, exist only in 
the human mind, and they are " shorthand" methods of distin- 
guishing, classifying, and resuming phases of sense-impression. 
They do not exist in or beyond the world of sense-impressions, but 
are the pure product of our reasoning faculty. 1 

The fact that science is a body of comparisons dependent 
on modes of thinking can be brought out by commenting 
once more on methods of measurement. The process of 

1 PEARSON, KARL The Grammar of Science, p. 206 ; London, Adam 
and Charles Black, 1911. 


scientific measurement consists in evaluating a given phenom- 
enon in terms of a standard which human thinking has 
established and refined. Space facts, for example, are 
determined by careful comparison with the yard or meter. 
At some later time and at some other place, another phenom- 
enon is subjected to a similar comparison with the standard. 
Through two comparisons of phenomena with a conven- 
tional standard, it is possible for the mind to bring together 
in thought objects that in reality are far apart. By refer- 
ence to a common scientific standard a mountain in Europe 
can be compared with a mountain in Asia or North America. 

Even after measurement has been completed, the process 
of comparison usually requires the aid of mathematical 
formulas. Number, as we have seen, and, still more, alge- 
braic symbols are devices which the mind has worked out. 
All higher mathematics is a refined product of social co- 
operative thinking. Every quantitative comparison is, 
therefore, a logical and psychological fact, not a fact of 
objective nature. 

Human evolution has gradually been making progress in 
the direction of scientific thinking because it has been found 
that such thinking greatly facilitates living. It is needless to 
offer evidences of this fact because our age is so fully con- 
vinced of the practical value of science that it is prepared to 
give to it the highest place in public esteem. 

We are, however, interested in pointing out some of the 
obstacles which science encounters in its progress and some 
of the purposes which it serves as a social institution. 

Among the most serious obstacles encountered by science 
in the course of human history are those which arise out of 
the opposition between personal, limited views of the world 
and the broader views which come through cooperative 
observation. Take the commonplace illustration found in 
one of the conclusions of science which is universally accepted 


in civilized society, namely, the conclusion that the earth is 
spherical. This runs counter to ordinary experience. To 
the individual looking out on a landscape, the appearances 
are all in favor of the conclusion that the earth is flat. If 
science is to modify this personal view, the individual must 
be taught to give up his personal ways of thinking based on 
what his eyes see, and adopt the conclusions of social experi- 
ence. Men have sailed around the world. That must 
suffice for the rest of mankind, even though most of them 
have never been away from the level surroundings of their 

We hardly realize how fundamental a change has come 
into thinking along with the conviction that the world is 
spherical. We have a kind of modern scientific credulity 
which almost makes us neglectful of our own observations. 
We are told that light and heat are forms of vibration, that 
solid bodies are porous, that the stars are some of them huge 
beyond comparison with our sun. We do not hesitate to 
accept all these statements and hundreds of others besides. 
The medieval world burned men at the stake for offering the 
public mind such contradictions to established modes of 
thinking. Primitive man even to-day is incredulous when 
he is told truths which run counter to his direct observations. 

We and our ancestors before us have been willing to accept 
the results of cooperative thinking most readily in those 
spheres where our personal interests are least involved. 
Most of us are complacent to be scientific about the stars, 
but we soon reach the limits of credulity when it comes to 
personal matters. Let our doctors tell us something about 
our interior mechanisms, and we begin to assert our inde- 
pendence ; are we not in receipt of direct reports from these 
quarters ? It is for such reasons as these that science began 
and flourished first with reference to things remote and 
detached from our personal lives. Even the most scientific 


man among us has his lapses when it comes to dealing with 
personal interests. We are still human, even though 
modern science has made great progress in the direction of 
developing a broader view of nature than can be compassed 
by any individual's observation. 

Science may be defined as the recorded experience of the 
race refined by criticism and experimentation. Science is 
superindividual. Science is capable of bringing to the aid of a 
given generation not only the collective experience of all of 
its members but also the exact and carefully formulated 
experience of other generations. Science serves to guide 
conduct very much more advantageously than can the most 
mature experience of an adult. Such statements with 
regard to science must be qualified by the admission that 
there is still much imperfection in our collective knowledge. 
Science is still in the making, and science still has to reckon 
with the fact that the conduct of civilized men does not 
always keep pace with their most advanced thinking. 

The reason for the lag in conduct is to be found in the fact 
that a principle discovered by science must be assimilated 
and must be transformed into a motor process before it can 
become a guide of life. Science may teach that it is unde- 
sirable for one to live in the midst of uncleanliness, but it is 
not until much effort has been expended in drilling into one's 
habits of action the practices of neatness that the scientific 
principle becomes a true guide to life. Science may teach 
that light is refracted in passing from a denser medium to a 
rarer medium, but it requires a great deal of practice to 
learn to locate an object seen under water. 

Science and its applications have become so far separated 
that in many cases society has delegated to one group of 
individuals the task of discovering principles and recording 
them and to another group of individuals the task of apply- 
ing these principles. This type of social differentiation of 


agencies can go on because science is not a mode of mere 
individual thinking; it is a form of cooperative thinking. 
For the same reasons delays and difficulties encountered in 
turning science into conduct are not fatal. They are com- 
pensated for by the fact that science is permanent in its 
records and general enough in its character to effect in the 
long run a great many situations which were not thought 
of at the time scientific principles were formulated. 

Another difficulty in the way of both the development and 
the application of science is that the modes of discovery and 
the methods of formulating principles in different spheres of 
scientific thinking are so different that while attention is 
concentrated in one direction it is likely to be withdrawn from 
other directions. The botanist looks at plants, but just in 
the degree in which he does so he looks away from the stars. 
Specialization in science is the result of the limitation of 
human modes of thinking. Each science has its particular 
methods and each scientist becomes expert in these particular 

The pooling of the results of the different sciences is 
becoming because of specialization an ever increasing diffi- 
culty. The world has reached the stage where no single 
mind can follow the various sciences with anything like a 
balanced recognition of the teachings of all of them. It is 
becoming necessary to develop institutions in which groups 
of workers in different fields shall deliberately cultivate 
methods of uniting their findings in usable formulas which 
shall embody the results of many different lines of investiga- 
tion. A laboratory supported by a manufacturing plant 
is one example of such an organized effort to combine many 
sciences in productive ways, A federal department of 
agriculture or a federal bureau of standards is another. A 
group of specialists in medicine organized into a hospital 
staff is still another. 


The psychological effect on human thinking of this mani- 
fold development of science is not merely to be sought in the 
modes of thought and applications resulting from scientific 
study. There is a general effect which may be called a grow- 
ing confidence in science as a mode of dealing with the world. 
Our generation has come to the conclusion that the best 
way to guide conduct is to think carefully and critically 
before taking any practical steps. In other words, we have 
learned by long experience that the most direct road to suc- 
cess and comfort in life is through conformity to the findings 
of exact thinking. So completely is our age persuaded of 
this that it bestows on abstract scientific research some of 
its richest resources. 

The science of the present has achieved its most conspicu- 
ous successes in the spheres where relations are least complex. 
In the sphere of man's relations with physical and chemical 
forces, science is accepted without serious misgivings by all 
civilized men as the guide in individual and social adjust- 
ments. In the world of biological relations guidance is less 
certain. Here the vital interests of human beings are so 
much more directly involved that general social experience 
cannot always get itself established in the face of individual 
prejudices. The line of consideration suggested by this 
discussion is complete when it is stated that science has up 
to the present been least fully developed in respect to human 
nature and human relations. There is practically no un- 
disputed principle of social science. The need of more en- 
ergy of critical thinking and investigation in this sphere is 
evident from the present lack of agreement even on fun- 

The student of civilization is led by following such an argu- 
ment as the foregoing to make the plea that more stress be laid 
in modern life on a careful critical study of the best methods 
of adjusting interhuman relations. It is in the sphere of 


human interactions that the major unsolved problems of 
modern life are to be found. No one can contemplate the 
present state of European civilization without being con- 
vinced of the truth of this assertion. We have seen the 
most advanced knowledge of physical science marshaled 
in the service of a violently destructive effort of man to over- 
power man. We have seen the complete unwillingness of 
nations to conform to some of the most fundamental prin- 
ciples which have been evolved out of human economic ex- 
perience because national animosities and fear dominate 
thought and action. The plea which is made by the student 
of the psychology of civilization that the race devote itself 
to a study of human relations is no philanthropic preach- 
ment. It is a plea that men be true in the treatment of 
human problems to the conclusion which has been amply 
established in the sphere of the natural sciences. If it is 
true that the safest guide to conduct is critically refined ex- 
perience, why not go about solving the problems of human 
relationship by a study of human nature and human insti- 
tutions as intensive as that carried on with reference to 
physical phenomena? 

There is one inhibition to the fullest development of the 
social sciences which grows out of the perfection of the natural 
sciences. The highly developed sciences which are concerned 
with physical facts have so captured the imaginations of 
men and so gained the profound respect of everyone that 
their formulas dominate all thinking. The law of analogy 
controls human thinking to a very marked degree ; there is 
a strong tendency, therefore, to explain all the facts of human 
life on the analogy of physical phenomena or on the analogy 
of biological principles. There has been frequent occasion 
in earlier chapters to combat this tendency. It has been 
pointed out again and again that the biological sciences 
have been accepted in many quarters as safe guides in ex- 


plaining human society. No sooner did the biologists find 
that animals and plants evolve into more complex forms 
through wholly unconscious variations and natural selec- 
tion than many students of society fell into the fallacy of 
asserting that human life is also nothing but a succession 
of unconscious variations and naturally selected survivals. 
So far have some writers gone that they assert that social 
institutions are to be explained without reference of any 
kind to conscious processes. 

This book has been throughout an argument against 
such superficial thinking in mere analogies. It has been 
an effort to set up a psychological rather than a biological 
explanation of human conduct and human thinking. Lan- 
guage, number, the practical arts, trade exchange, sesthetical 
endeavor, and religion are not biological facts. To attempt 
to bring them down to that level is to prostitute the high 
to the infinitely low. The explanation of human society 
cannot be found in the life of the herd ; nor can the explana- 
tion of the division of labor be found in a beehive. The 
explanation of human society must be sought in the institu- 
tional ways of promoting success which have been developed 
by the highest of the animals through long ages of coopera- 
tive effort. 

Not only so, but the further development of social in- 
stitutions requires just as much precise thinking as has been 
required for the development of physical science and for the 
mastery of nature. It is time for society to reach a higher 
and a self-conscious stage with regard to its own institutions 
and to bestow on them the same kind of careful and imper- 
sonal research that it has bestowed on physical phenomena. 



One method which has been adopted of bringing individ- 
uals into conformity with social conventions has been govern- 
mental compulsion. There are occasions when it seems 
futile to wait for the operation of methods of persuasion. 
There are individuals who seem at times to be so out of 
sympathy with the efforts of the group to live in productive 
harmony that the only feasible method of protecting the 
group is through the exercise of violence in the interests of 

The group is usually strong enough when it unites against 
the individual to have its way. Sometimes the group is 
not a unit. Then the individual may for the time being 
defy the group or even disrupt it permanently. 

Again, the individual may evade the group by carrying on 
unconventional practices in such a way as to escape obser- 
vation. The group is, for this reason, compelled to appoint 
agents whose duty it is to see that there shall be no evasion 
of its conventions. 

Finally, the group often has difficulty in formulating with 
definiteness what it really wants individuals to do. In such 
cases there must be found a way to clarify group judgment 
and to make pronouncements which shall be accepted as 
guides of conduct. 

A vast number of experiments have been tried in the course 
of human history in the formulation and enforcement of 
group demands. We are apparently not yet at the end of 



such experiments. Any review of the situation at this point 
can make no claim to completeness. It is desirable, how- 
ever, that some reference be made in any discussion of social 
institutions to the experiments in forceable control which 
have been tried in the past, in order that the reader's thinking 
may be drawn to a recognition of the fact that government 
is a psychological device for directing human practices. Gov- 
ernmental control is a method wholly different from science 
and historically much older and more prevalent. 

As a first step in this discussion, reference may be made 
to a study which was completed some years ago of the gov- 
ernments of primitive tribes. Three British students of 
human institutions made a canvass of the literature relating 
to primitive practices and brought together in tabular form 
and in textual description an account of the stages of evolu- 
tion through which primitive group control has passed. 
Chapter II of the work referred to supplied the title of the 
present chapter and will be drawn upon for a series of state- 
ments contrasting primitive governmental control with the 
higher forms of control known to civilized society. 

The first problem to be discussed in considering govern- 
ment is the size of the group which is subject to a single 
system of authority. The earliest groups were small. 
The findings of Hobhouse and his collaborators are as fol- 

The simpler societies, particularly those of hunters and gather- 
ers and the lower agriculturists and pastoralists, for the most part 
live in small communities, varying in number of inhabitants from 
perhaps a score to two or three hundred. Information on the ques- 
tion of numbers is unfortunately too often vague and uncertain 
to admit of the construction of any table on this point. But among 
the lower gatherers we generally hear of quite small groups, 2 or 
3 to 5 or 6 families in the usual sense of that term, making one or 
perhaps two " enlarged families' 7 of brothers or possibly cousins 


with their wives, children and grandchildren. It may be re- 
marked that if we suppose an old man and his wife, two sons and 
their wives with 3 or 4 growing children apiece to be living together, 
we get a group of 13 people. Two such households would form a 
group of 26, which is as large as many of the groups of jungle tribes 
seem to be. Two pairs of such groups would be 52, which seems to be 
about the average of an Australian local group, and in many cases, 
though we are unfortunately not able to say in how many, the 
little society appears in fact to be constituted by people thus nearly 
related, the elder males being brothers or cousins. But often, es- 
pecially as we go a little further up the scale, we hear of small 
villages or bands, and sometimes of numbers such as two hundred 
or more, and often we learn nothing definite about the relation- 
ships or affinities connecting their members. 1 

The limitations of small communities become evident 
on a moment's consideration. The variety of skills at the 
command of a small group is always very small. The 
strength of such a group in defending itself against an out- 
side foe or against the internal depredations of one or more 
offensive members is small. The power to collectiand master 
any large body of material resources is seriously limited. 
The advantages of small numbers are those of direct con- 
tact. Surveillance of all the members of the community 
requires no special agencies because everyone can observe 
directly the doings of all. Discrimination between for- 
eigners and members of the community is instant and cer- 
tain. Sympathy inside the group is usually strong because 
interests are immediately recognized as common. 

The tendency of social groups to expand is a result of the 
discovery that large groups and strong groups are better 
adapted to survival than are limited communities. The large 
group, in order to persist, must, however, be able to evolve 

1 HOBHOUSE, L. T., WHEELER, G. C., and GINSBERG, M. The Material 
Culture and Social Institutions of the Simpler Peoples, pp. 46-47; London, 
Chapman and Hall, 1915. 


devices for communication through greater distances, de- 
vices for distribution of labor and goods, and devices for 
compensation of talent and protection of both life and 

In primitive society we find the expansion of the group 
going on through the union of small family communities 
into a larger tribal community. The agencies of govern- 
ment are then divided into local and remoter agencies. 
Hobhouse and his associates describe this condition as fol- 
lows : 

As far as concerns government, the main result of these con- 
siderations is that we must distinguish between smaller and larger 
groups. If we speak of a chief or a council, we must know whether 
it is the chief or council of a local group or of a tribe. But we must 
remark further that a tribe may be divided, not so much into lo- 
cally distinct groups as into totems or clans, that pervade its whole 
area but yet have a semi-independent organization of their own. 
To use the most general expression possible, therefore, we have 
distinguished primary and secondary social groups. The primary 
group is the smallest organization above the simple family which 
has a recognized unity and a measure of self-government. The 
secondary group is an aggregate of primaries. The primary group 
may be an enlarged family; it may be a clan recognizing com- 
mon descent or a totemic band ; or it may be a local band. More- 
over, these divisions of a tribe may coexist, and there may be more 
than one group which might deserve the name of primary. In 
such cases we give the name of primary to the group which exer- 
cises most of the functions of government. Often we shall, in fact, 
find that there is something analogous to government fairly well de- 
veloped in the primary group, while there is little or nothing of 
the sort beyond it. 1 

In such tribal and group consolidations there always 
emerged one man or a small council to whom matters were 

1 HOBHOUBB, L. T., et al., op. dt } p. 48. 


referred for decision. In other words, there was set up very 
early a center from which pronouncements were issued rep- 
resenting the judgments of the whole group. The method of 
selecting the leader and council was at first of a type which 
may be called natural. Heredity operated to perpetuate 
the power of a strong man in his son, or leadership in war 
which was accorded to the individual because of personal 
strength or courage resulted in leadership in all phases of 
group life. 

As with the individual leader so with the council ; it was 
at first selected because of the natural prestige of its mem- 
bers. Often it consisted of the older members of the group, 
sometimes of the warriors or hunters only. Its influence 
was also dictated by the accidents of social need. In some 
instances it had only slight voice in the control of the group ; 
at other times its decisions were binding. 

The fact which stands out most clearly is that with the 
progress of social evolution the functions of government 
and of its responsible agencies are more and more clearly 
defined. If we think of the modern nation, we recognize 
the progressive tendency to locate governmental func- 
tions with precision and to give them definite limits of 

The problem of finding leaders continues to be, even in the 
most highly organized communities, one of the crucial prob- 
lems of government. The demand in civilized society is 
not for a leader of physical strength ; and, of late, evidence 
has accumulated rapidly to show that modern states are not 
satisfied to believe in heredity as a basis for acceptance of a 
leader. Popular choice has again and again proved to be 
unintelligent in its selections and, even if it were much more 
certain than it is to operate without the hazards of un- 
founded prejudice, there is always the difficulty that the 
supply of leaders must from the nature of the case be small. 


Our generation in this country is committed to the method 
of selecting its governmental leaders by ballot. The day is 
probably distant when this method can be raised to a higher 
level by the collection of anything like scientific information 
about candidates. 

The purpose of such governmental machinery as is evolved 
is to adjust relations within the group and between groups. 
The conception which modern society has of the desirability 
of properly controlling these relations is the conception ex- 
pressed in the word "justice." Relations are to be set in 
order, and whatever is done is to be done in such a way that all 
parties to the relation shall be able to carry on their sub- 
sequent activities with the greatest possible advantage. 
There must be rules which are applicable again and again 
to like situations and suitable for adoption by all the members 
of the group as safe guides of conduct. 

The evolution of justice begins with personal revenge. 
At first the desire to avoid vengeance at the hands of those 
who are injured is the only safeguard against infractions 
against the comfort or lives of others. The second step is 
taken when primitive society comes, as it does very early, to 
the help of the avenger with the somewhat loose and irregu- 
lar support of public opinion, or in some cases with direct 
aid. Not infrequently the avenger gains, even in primitive 
groups, the support of the chief, but even in such a case the 
actual administration of punishment is at first left to the 

After personal revenge comes public justice. There is 
some evidence that the first public justice concerns itself 
with protection of the interests which are recognized as social. 
From this point on there are gradually drawn under public 
control all of the relations that are involved in cooperative 
life. The paragraphs from Hobhouse and his collaborators 
on this matter are as follows : 


To begin with, the public authority, be it what it may, may 
concern itself only with offenses held to injure the whole com- 
munity,, ceremonial offenses, breaches of the tribal marriage 
laws, witchcraft, and especially murder by witchcraft, indisci- 
pline, treason, cowardice, violation of the rules of the hunt. These 
we class as " Tribal or Sacral offenses/' and we find in fact a large 
number of instances in which such offenses are punished by some 
public effort and no others. Thus among the Bellacoola, a Salish 
group, we find that for transgressing the laws of the Kusiut cere- 
mony, e.g., by performing a dance to which a man has no right or 
making a mistake in dancing, the penalty is death, adjudged by the 
assembled chiefs. The execution is by a shaman, who bewitches 
or poisons the offender, but if the offender recovers he is not 
molested further, and a relative may, if willing, be substituted. 
There is no account here of the treatment of other offenses, but 
of the Salish, Kwakiutl, Nootka, Tsimshian, Thlinkeet, and Haida 
peoples, Niblack (Smithsonian Reports, p. 253, 1888) says : " In 
cases such as witchcraft or offenses of medicine men, sentence of 
death or of fine is adjudged by the leading men of the village after 
trial. In most instances, however, the law of blood revenge, an 
eye for an eye, leaves little need for other than family councils, 
as they are purely totemic offenses and are arranged by the in- 
jured gens." These are clear cases of the distinction between sacral 
offenses deemed to concern the tribe, and private matters. More 
doubtful instances are those from the Makh-el-chel, a Californian 
tribe among whom, according to Powers (p. 214), we are told that 
a woman could be put to death by the chief for marriage or adul- 
tery with a white man. So again among the Nishinan, a very 
low Californian tribe according to the same authority (pp. 318, 
320), kidnapping was punished by the community, but the lead- 
ing case is that of a chief who sold a woman to the Spaniards. 
Probably both these instances are to be regarded as acts of quasi- 
treason to the community. Among the Seri, again, there was a 
kind of ostracism which might culminate in outlawry for associat- 
ing with aliens, deformity, incurable indolence, disease, mental 
aberration, decrepitude, and a certain breach of the marriage law. 
Of these, indolence was &n offense against the clan, because it had 


to support each of its members ; and the marriage regulation was 
that a bride should for a year be at the disposal of the bridegroom's 
clan fellows. If he exercised his own rights during that time, he 
offended them collectively. All these, therefore, we should class 
upon the whole as of the nature of public offenses. Sometimes 
again, breaches of order in the hunt might be punished by a special 
Hunt police, as among the Omaha, while among many Australian 
tribes, it is well-known, breach of the marriage rules was the most 
definite occasion for the intervention of the collective force of the 
group. Next, the community may intervene irregularly or in 
special cases. It may avenge the death of a chief or popular man. 
It may expel or kill a man who has killed two or three others in 
cold blood or who has made himself generally unpopular. This 
sort of public justice falls far short of any regular rule assigning 
definite punishment to a specific offense. It is more like lynch 
law, or the exceptional act of a civilised government in troubled 
times. We class such cases as acts of " Occasional " public 

Next a public authority may deal with some cases of private 
wrong and not others, e.g., with homicide, and not theft, as in 
some Australian groups; or with theft and not homicide, as in 
some South American instances. These come under our heading 
" Public justice in some private offenses/' 

Again, the system we find may be one in which private arid pub- 
lic elements are intermingled. The injured party may, for in- 
stance, get the chief or some officer to help him, to find the stolen 
goods, or to arrest and confine the murderer of his brother. But 
he initiates the proceedings. He decides whether he will forgive 
or accept compensation or exact life for life, and he executes the 
sentence. Possibly there is even a regular trial, but sentence is 
left to the accuser to execute, and if he cannot enforce it there is 
no further means of redress. Again, it may be wrong for him to 
exercise revenge until he has obtained a judgment in his favour 
which states what the revenge ought to be. Or it may be that he 
can avenge himself on the spot, but if time has elapsed he ought to 
go to a court. In all these cases there is a blending of opposite 


principles. We class them as cases in which private justice is 
assisted or controlled, or both. 1 

It requires no citation of examples to show that modern 
society is engaged in trying to discover adequate methods 
of administration of justice. Every court of law is an ex- 
pression of the demand for justice and most modern legisla- 
tion is intended to serve as a clear definition of rights which 
shall make unnecessary the intervention of courts of law. 

The impressive fact revealed by the experience of men with 
justice in both ancient and modern times is that it can never 
be made automatic. Justice always gets its definition in 
detail from the social environment. The justice of earlier 
days is not the justice of modern times. The justice of the 
army is wholly different in its details from the justice of the 
factory. Justice is a mode of arranging relations and is, 
therefore, a changing equilibrium. 

There is one broad general principle which has been 
evolved out of all of the concrete efforts to establish justice, 
namely, the principle that group interests and, in general, 
group judgments are superior to individual interests and 
judgments. Individual standards usually have too narrow 
a basis. Group experiences are broad and embody the 
results of much past experimentation. 

There is an expression frequently heard in courts of law 
which brings out clearly the importance of group experi- 
ence in establishing justice. That expression is " common 
law." Whatever has become common law after trial by 
social groups is likely to be useful in guiding conduct in the 
direction in which it should move in order to produce the 
most fortunate adaptations. Common law reaches back 
into the life of primitive tribes and brings down to the com- 
munities of later stages of civilization that body of expe- 

1 HOBHOUSE, L. T., et al., op. cit. } pp. 54-57. 


rience which no individual could secure within the period of 
a single lifetime. 

There is one striking example of the way in which under 
pressure a code of law closely resembling common law was 
rapidly evolved. This example is so instructive because of 
its revelation of the methods of group activity that it may 
be described somewhat fully. The description is borrowed 
from a leaflet published during the war by the United States 
Food Administration and the United States Bureau of 
Education. It was prepared by George P. Costigan, Jr., 
professor of law, Northwestern University : 

To trace a law to its remotest origins is an impossible task. The 
practices of a civilized community have gradually been developed 
from earliest times. When a community enacts a law, it is merely 
expressing in a formal way a principle which has long been in op- 
eration. This process usually goes on gradually and one loses sight 
of the fact that law originates in practical adjustment. There is 
one interesting historical example, however, of a system of laws 
now in operation in this country which was put together on so 
large a scale and at so exact a date that it exhibits very clearly the 
way in which laws originate. The so-called American mining law, 
which was enacted by Congress in 1866 and in 1872 in substan- 
tially the form which it has to-day, was derived directly from cer- 
tain rules and practices set up in 1848 to 1851 by the people who 
went to California to mine gold. There was at that time no es- 
tablished system of laws which controlled the mining of the pre- 
cious metals. The miners adopted rules which afterwards became 
laws with little or no modification. . . . 

It was several months after the actual discovery of gold in Cali- 
fornia before the rush of prospectors and adventurers began. 
From the very first, however, those who came for gold insisted 
that they were entitled to take it regardless of whether the United 
States owned it and, after California became a State, regardless 
of whether the State of California or the United States owned the 
right to the minerals as sovereign successor of Mexico. Though 


they were technically trespassers upon the public domain, they 
insisted that they had a right to be there and to take the minerals 
found by them. In June and July, 1848, Col. Mason made a trip 
through the California gold fields and at that time, because he had 
not enough troops under him to do anything else, decided to yield 
perforce to the doctrine of free mining. On August 17, 1848, he 
reported upon his trip to the Adjutant General of the United 
States Army as follows : 

"The most moderate estimate I could obtain from men ac- 
quainted with the subject was that upward of 4,000 men were 
working in the gold district, of whom more than half were Indians, 
and that from $30,000 to $50,000 worth of gold, if not more, was 
daily obtained. The entire gold district, with very few excep- 
tions of grants made some years ago by the American authorities, 
is on land belonging to the United States. It was a matter of 
serious reflection with me how I could secure to the Government 
certain rents or fees for the privilege of procuring this gold ; but, 
upon considering the large extent of country, the character of the 
people engaged and the small scattered force at my command, 
I resolved not to interfere but permit all to work freely, unless 
broils and crimes should call for interference. " 

The 4,000 men working in the gold field in June and July, 1848, 
rapidly increased in number until there were several hundred 
thousand miners and others dependent on mining. Those who 
rushed into the gold field were not, as some people think, lawless 
adventurers, but in the main, law-loving and law-enforcing. Even 
when half were Indians, as was the case when Col. Mason made 
his trip to the field in June and July, 1848, they were law-abiding. 
In his report of that trip he stated : 

"I was surprised to learn that crime of any kind was very infre- 
quent and that no thefts or robberies had been committed in the 
gold district. All live in tents, in brush houses, or in the open air, 
and men have frequently about their persons thousands of dollars' 
worth of the gold ; and it was a matter of surprise that so peaceful 
and quiet a state of things should continue to exist. Conflicting 
claims to particular spots of ground may cause collisions, but they 


will be rare, as the extent of country is so great, and the gold so 
abundant, that for the present there is room and enough for all. '' 

The ideal condition thus pictured did not last, however, and 
early the miners found it necessary, in the absence of Federal and 
later of Federal or State regulations, to provide rules for the loca- 
tion and retention of mining claims and even for the punishment 
of crimes. They early adopted the very effective system of 
miners' regulations enacted at meetings of miners in self-consti- 
tuted mining districts and early recognized and enforced through 
the district organization various customs which grew up in the 
districts. These regulations and these enforced customs, so far 
as they pertained to mining, were so reasonable and so fair to all 
as to call forth the highest praise from all who consider them. 

Of these miners' rules and regulations, and the relation which the 
Act of Congress of 1866 bore to them, Mr. Justice Field, in his 
summing up of a case, said : 

"The discovery of gold in California was followed, as is well 
known, by an immense immigration into the State, which in- 
creased its population within three or four years from a few thou- 
sand to several hundred thousand. The lands in which the pre- 
cious metals were found belonged to the United States and were 
unsurveyed and not opened by law to occupation and settlement. 
Little was known of them further than that they were situated 
in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Into these mountains the im- 
migrants, in vast numbers, penetrated, occupying the ravines, 
gulches, and canyons and probing the earth in all directions for the 
precious metals. Wherever they went they carried with them that 
love of order and system and of fair dealing which are the promi- 
nent characteristics of our people. In every district which they 
occupied they framed certain rules for their government by which 
the extent of ground they could severally hold for mining was des- 
ignated and their right to such ground secured and enforced and 
contests between them either avoided or determined. These 
rules bore a marked similarity, varying in the several districts only 
according to the extent and character of the mines ; distinct pro- 
visions being made for different kinds of mining, such as placer 


mining, quartz mining, and mining in drifts or tunnels. They all 
recognized discovery, followed by appropriation, as the founda- 
tion of the possessor's title, and development by working, as the 
condition of its retention, and they were so framed as to secure to 
all comers, within practicable limits, absolute equality of right 
and privilege in working the mines. Nothing but such equality 
would have been tolerated by the miners, who were emphatically 
the lawmakers as respects mining upon the public lands in the 
State. The first appropriator was everywhere held to have, 
within certain well-defined limits, a better right than others to 
the claims taken up, and in all controversies, except as against the 
Government, he was regarded as the original owner from whom 
title was to be traced/' 1 

The history of American mining laws gives a very vivid account 
of the way in which law in general is developed. As one writer 
has put the matter : 

"This adventurous class of our people met, as their kinsmen 
and ancestors have always met, every emergency, with good sense, 
promptitude, and fairness, and from their actions resulted a set of 
usages and regulations known as the Miners' Common Law, or 
the Miners' Law of Right, which were inspired by such a keen sense 
of practical justice that they are found, upon analysis, to contain 
the best elements of the most carefully formed mining codes of the 
older world, and the best elements of the code finally enacted by 
Federal legislation." 

The reason why these rules and regulations were so successful 
is found in the fact thus stated by the same writer : u The govern- 
ment of the miners was in form a pure democracy, in which all were 
voters, lawmakers, and triers of causes by right." 2 

This matter has been presented at length because it illus- 
trates more fully than do any of our present-day methods of 
enacting statutes the character of law as an outgrowth and 

1 Lessons in Community and National Life. Series A, pp. 145-149 ; United 
States Government Printing Office, 1918. 
Ibid., p. 152. 


expression of the effort to adjust individuals to one another 
and to the group. 

Enough has perhaps been said to reveal the reason for 
including a discussion of government in a volume on psy- 
chology. It remains to point out one general and highly 
significant psychological change which has been wrought in 
individuals through the evolution of government and jus- 
tice. The individual has learned to respect government 
and to desire it. He has become law-abiding, which means 
that he has given up the natural tendency to follow his per- 
sonal impulses and has adopted as his own the wisdom of 
the group. 

The fact is that the will of the group has become so in- 
fluential in guiding individual behavior that even when social 
judgment expresses itself, not in statutes, but in that much 
vaguer form known as public opinion, it operates power- 
fully to limit and direct the activities of citizens. Public 
opinion is a half-formulated statute. It is often blunder- 
ing in its pronouncements, but it is on the road to refine- 
ment and ultimate adoption. 

It is appropriate at the close of this chapter to contrast 
government as an institution with science as an institution. 
Government is the earlier and more forceful form of control. 
The ideal condition to which we may look forward is that 
in which science and government will coalesce and all 
statutes will be based on the kind of critical analysis of ex- 
perience which is characteristic of science. In that distant 
day the scientific knowledge about human nature and its 
interrelations will be as highly perfected as is the physics of 
to-day and group judgments will invariably point to the 
most satisfactory modes of adaptation. 


Each of the chapters of this book has been made up of 
two parts, one a description of social institutions, the other 
a discussion of the mental processes related to the institu- 
tions described. 

The descriptive parts have not aimed to cover all that 
goes to make up civilization. The important institutions 
of marriage, the family, the church, social clubs, and public 
opinion and many others have not been included. It is not 
the function of psychology to give an exhaustive description 
of all these. That is the province of the various social 
sciences. For the purposes of a treatise of the type here 
attempted it is legitimate to select certain type cases. 
These have been chosen with a view to emphasizing certain 
significant contrasts and only in such number as seemed 
necessary to supply an empirical basis for the study of the 
way in which the human mind works when it works in groups. 

The essential outcome of the psychological analyses which 
have accompanied the descriptions of institutions can be 
expressed in the following general statements. Man has 
perfected in the course of his evolution certain methods of 
social cooperation which have completely transformed in- 
dividual behavior and individual experience. The inner 
life of a human being is not merely the inner life of an animal 
somewhat enlarged in scale ; the constant use of words, the 
resort to tools, and respect for justice have produced so 
fundamental a change in the character of consciousness that 



man and the animals must be described as essentially differ- 

The conclusion of our study thus stated in broad terms 
will undoubtedly be met by certain objections. It will be 
pointed out that there is a great deal that is common to the 
life of animals and that of man. Both have sensory experi- 
ences ; both exhibit habits of reaction ; the higher animals ad- 
just themselves to the world in which they live by the use 
of what is called intelligence. Science has made so large a 
contribution to the understanding of life by showing that 
there is continuity in animal evolution and by making it clear 
that the higher forms of animal life are derived in a natural 
sequence from the lower forms that any statement which 
does not reiterate the doctrine of continuity invites rejection. 

In answer to anyone who is bent on attaching human life 
and human civilization to animal life in order to protect his 
thinking from the shock of recognizing discontinuity, it is 
proper to make the statement that there is at least one other 
point in the history of the world at which science has to face 
the fact that evolution produced a radical and qualitative 
change. That is the point at which protoplasm appears. 
The chemical elements of the primeval world underwent 
no increase in number and no change in character so far as 
we know through their union in that unique and complex 
form which we call living tissue, but at the moment that liv- 
ing tissue put the chemical elements together in a new way 
the history of the world was changed. At that moment 
the world started in a new direction. The new direction 
can be scientifically described only by recognizing that 
organization brought into being something which cannot 
be understood by enumerating its elements, something 
which can be understood only by reference to the new modes 
of action characteristic 6f protoplasm and to the new influ- 
ence which protoplasm exercises on other forms of reality. 


The apparent discontinuity which has to be faced by 
science in its discussions of life is not a disturbing fact. Life 
is a continuation at a higher level of the processes of com- 
bination which at lower levels produce inorganic compounds. 
The appearance of life is not a breach in nature but a transi- 
tion to a new level of organization. 

Once science draws attention to the fact that a descrip- 
tion of organization is quite as important in the explanation 
of phenomena as is a description of the elements which enter 
into organization, it is easy to make a case for the statement 
that the whole process of animal evolution has been one of 
producing at stage after stage new and more complex forms 
of adaptation. Let us consider intelligence. The essence 
of intelligence is that animals, especially those of the higher 
forms of organization, evolve nervous organs and modes of 
life by the use of which accumulated experience becomes the 
basis of conduct. The animal which learns through expe- 
rience where to find food and how to avoid danger is rec- 
ognized as of a higher type than is the animal which persists 
without deviation in a few original modes of behavior. The 
ability to profit by experience depends on clearly recognizable 
physical conditions. The nervous system of an intelligent 
animal is always larger than the nervous system of an un- 
intelligent animal. In other words, in order that a higher 
mode of behavior may arise nature had to evolve a com- 
plex organ and to this extent had to increase the complexity 
of the whole inner organization of the animal. Here, as in 
dealing with the appearance of life, science has to recognize 
the fact that evolution brings into being new forms of or- 
ganization and new modes of behavior. 

An appeal to the analogies supplied by the appearance of 
life and of intelligence may be ineffective in persuading those 
who have been drilled in the formulas of individual psy- 
chology to think of social consciousness and social institutions 


as products of a higher form of organization or as realities 
worthy of full scientific recognition. A given human being 
is so concrete and tangible a fact in the world, his nervous 
system and his hand are so accessible to the scientist, and 
his behavior is so readily capable of measurement that one 
feels oneself to be on solid ground when one formulates 
explanations of human nature by saying that social groups 
in the large are made up of aggregations of these individuals. 
From the point of view of individual psychology, language 
and money and tools and the other social institutions are 
merely expressions of individual intelligence or products of 
human reactions to external reality. 

There are two inadequacies in such an easy individual 
psychology. In the first place, it takes no adequate ac- 
count of the effects of cooperation. What the individual 
contributes to language is infinitely little. What the in- 
dividual contributes to government is so small a part of the 
history of human effort to build up nations that we find 
ourselves lost when we attempt to explain society as an as- 
semblage of individuals. Human society is a unique fact in 
a world which has no other system of intelligent social 
cooperation. Society has absorbed all the intelligence and 
skill of the individuals of many generations and has evolved 
in its institutions just as tangible a body of accumulated 
wisdom as the individual possesses in his nervous system. 
To think of society as a mere abstraction is to forget the ac- 
cumulated wealth of the world in literature, in economic 
systems, and in art. 

Individual psychology is, in the second place, wholly in- 
adequate in its explanation of a mature human being. Indi- 
vidual psychology has a formula for the explanation of the 
mature animal. The animal starts life with certain struc- 
tures: sensory, central, and muscular. In the course of 
*ts life it receives sundry impressions and makes responses, 


thus producing tracts through its nervous system and pro- 
ducing internal states which make up what we call its con- 
sciousness. The animal remains throughout this process an 
individual determined in its traits and in its character almost 
wholly by inheritance and determined in its intelligence by 
individual experience. 

Such a formula does not adequately explain the mature 
human being. The mature human being has, like the ani- 
mal, inherited and acquired tracts through the brain. Like 
the animal, but at a somewhat higher level of complexity, 
the mature human being stores up experiences derived from 
sensory impressions and from his efforts to meet these sen- 
sory impressions. But the unique fact in human life is that 
a method has been evolved which makes it possible to take 
over into the individual's nervous system a vast body of 
experience which has been accumulated through racial 
experience and is too complex to be transmitted through 
physical inheritance. The same ear that detects the sound 
of approaching danger or makes one aware of a companion 
brings into the brain of man the spoken word which society 
has loaded with a freightage of gradually accumulated wisdom. 
The word is not to be responded to by a direct act of grasp- 
ing or rejecting; it is taken into one's inner life and there 
used to enlarge that inner life. The mode of behavior which 
is involved is very indirect and complex. The whole process 
is a means of extending individual experience so that it 
reaches back of the present and makes the individual mas- 
ter of impressions which the race received long ago. Even 
more, the word suggests to the individual certain reactions 
which are not dictated by his native desires. The accept- 
ance of a social idea by the individual means that a 
process of transformation is in progress. So important is 
the racial experience which is deposited within the individual 
that it becomes a dominant fact. Purely individual expe- 


riences and modes of reacting to impressions sink to a level 
of inferior importance. The individual becomes an embodi- 
ment of social tendencies. The individual nervous system 
is in this way taken over by society and the modes of be- 
havior exhibited by the individual become those which are 
determined by society's needs and modes of operation quite 
as much as by natural personal traits. 

. There are no phrases too strong for a description of the 
transformation which society makes in the human individ- 
ual. There are times when the individual's natural modes 
of reaction and personal traits seem important. Within 
one's private consciousness one tends to accept the assump- 
tion that society does not dictate what shall go forward; 
one interprets introspective experience to mean that one 
could at will be independent of all outside dictation. If 
science is allowed to take a full account of the facts, it will 
be found that even in the moments of the most egoistic 
independence one is putting experiences together in the 
vernacular which one learned from one's parents. One 
uses the forms of criticism of one's own logic which have 
been acquired through long social experimentation on the 
part of one's race. 

The transformations which take place in individual nature 
as a result of listening to words and using them are perhaps 
more general and more important than are any of the other 
enlargements in experience which result from social influence, 
but something of the same type follows the introduction of 
the individual to the use of tools or money or the less tangible 
institutions of governmental control. 

History and romance are full of incidents illustrating the 
fact that men are parts of society, not merely mature animals. 

Walter Page, the American diplomat, writing to President 
Wilson his impressions of a royal dinner given by the King 
of England to the King of Denmark, says : 


This whole royal game is most interesting. Lloyd George and 
H. H. Asquith and John Morley were there, all in white knee 
breeches of silk, and swords and most gaudy coats these that 
are the radicals of the Kingdom, in literature and in action. Vet- 
erans of Indian arid South African wars stood on either side of 
every door and of every stairway, dressed as Sir Walter Raleigh 
dressed, like so many statues, never blinking an eye. 

Whether it's the court, or the honours and the orders and all 
the social and imperial spoils, that keep the illusion up, or whether 
it is the Old World inability to change anything, you can't ever 
quite decide. In Defoe's time they put pots of herbs on the desks 
of every court in London to keep the plague off. The pots of 
herbs are yet put on every desk in every court room in London. 

Do they keep all these outworn things because they are inca- 
pable of changing anything, or do these outworn burdens keep 
them from becoming able to change anything ? I daresay it works 
both ways. Every venerable ruin, every outworn custom, makes 
the King more secure ; and the King gives veneration to every 
ruin and keeps respect for every outworn custom. 

Praise God for the Atlantic Ocean ! It is the geographical 
foundation of our liberties. Yet, as I've often written, there are 
men here, real men, ruling men, mighty men, and a vigorous stock. 1 

An example of a wholly different type may be borrowed 
from H. G. Wells : 

The primitive civilizations were, we may say, " communities of 
obedience" ; obedience to god-kings or kings under gods was their 
cement ; the nomadic tendency on the other hand has always been 
toward a different type of association which we shall here call a 
u community of will." In a wandering, fighting community the 
individual must be at once self-reliant and disciplined. The 

1 HENDRICK, BURTON J. The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, I, pp. 
167-170 ; Doubleday, Page & Co., 1922. 


chiefs of such communities must be chiefs who are followed, not 
masters who compel 1 

In both of these quotations human nature is described as 
reacting upon itself. Because men are what they are, they 
devise pageantry and submit themselves to leaders. Can 
anyone seriously consider such facts and yet think of the 
native tendencies of human nature as the most important 
items in a scientific explanation of man's experience and 
behavior ? 

To one who becomes absorbed in the study of the relations 
of the individual to society it seems very curious that the 
scientific formulas which have been used in attempting to 
account for human life should so often have been drawn 
from the sciences which deal with animal life. When lan- 
guage is described as a form of reaction rather than as a 
device for socializing the individual, when money is left out 
of the textbooks in psychology even though it is one of the 
most potent influences in shaping men's lives, when art is 
explained as a result of surplus energy, it is evident that 
there remains a large field for the study of a higher type 
of life. 

Of the importance of carrying science to the point where 
it shall develop adequate explanations of society, it is hardly 
necessary to write at length. The mastery of the physical 
world has gone far, thanks to the accumulated experience 
of the race, but the mastery of man's relations to his fellows 
is a matter of the future. The social sciences with their 
energy for exploration have revealed a vast treasure of in- 
formation with regard to the way in which institutions have 
grown and the way in which men have adjusted themselves 
to the conditions which surround them. It is time that the 

1 WELLS, H. G. The Outline of History, II, p. 143 ; The Macmillan Com- 
pany, 1920. 


social sciences take the lead and refuse to be dominated by 
the sciences which derive their principles of explanation 
from a study of bees and ants and anthropoid apes. 

The great leader in the establishment of the type of think- 
ing which has made biology as influential as it is saw that 
his doctrine of the origin of the species did not adequately 
explain man. It was this insight which led Darwin to supple- 
ment what he had said about the lower animal forms by a 
later volume on the Descent of Man; but his Descent of 
Man has furnished no foundation for the social sciences. 
The reason is obvious. Darwin did not take into account 
the fundamental facts about society. The Descent of Man 
differs from the Origin of Species in that the latter is a 
carefully formulated discussion of crucial facts and ex- 
perimental evidence while the former is a hasty and slight 
expression of a restless feeling on the part of its author in 
regard to matters which he saw to be of cardinal importance, 
but which he had not studied. 

There is in contemporary thought a very striking manifes- 
tation of the clash between common sense and the biological 
sciences when the latter attempt to treat human experience 
as of the same type as animal experience. The common 
man has heard of late some of the statements of the biologist 
which seem to him to identify him with the lower forms of 
life. He resents these statements. He knows that he has 
religion, language, art, tools, and government and that the 
lower animals are without all of these. He thinks of him- 
self in terms of a long history which is the history of a 
progressing civilization and he knows that animals are not 
moving along that road. He therefore refuses to accept the 
theory of the biologist and is prepared to resort to force 
if necessary to maintain his own dignity. 

It is not the intent of these paragraphs to declare in favor 
of the common man and against the general doctrine of 


evolution. On the contrary every chapter of this book 
goes to show that evolution is in progress to-day. It is 
equally not the intention of the writer of these pages to 
neglect the opportunity to warn science that it cannot derive 
from the study of lower forms of life formulas which will 
serve to explain man and his complex life and consciousness. 



Modern society has reached the stage in its evolution when 
it aggressively imposes its institutions on the individual. 
It has gone so far as to set up special agencies in its schools 
in order to insure the transformation of every child, so far 
as possible, into a being able and willing to conform to the 
social pattern of action and thought. Not only so, but in 
many of its other institutional organizations society expends 
a great deal of energy in the aggressive promotion of social 
practices. We use the general term " education " to describe 
these facts. Government is in this sense in large measure 
a device for educating citizens; social clubs and religious 
bodies are educational agencies. Wherever individuals are 
introduced to social institutions and encouraged in culti- 
vating social traits education is going on. 

There was a time in the history of the race when educa- 
tion was in large measure incidental. Society of the primi- 
tive type gave the child an opportunity to profit by the 
experience of the group; it offered him certain tools and 
certain types of information, but it left very largely to the 
option of each person the choice of accepting or rejecting 
these proffers. 

Incidental education gave place to a regular program of 
training when the group began to realize that the behavior 
of one of its members affected vitally the welfare of the tribe. 
The individual who killed game during the closed season, 
the individual who encroached on the hunting grounds of a 



neighboring tribe and induced reprisals, the individual who 
refused to share in the responsibility of protecting the mem- 
bers and property of his own group had to be taken in hand 
in some fashion and trained to conform to group practices. 
The most economical way of insuring conformity was not to 
wait for an infraction of social custom and a consequent 
period of more or less general suffering, but to forestall diffi- 
culty by giving practice in the accepted mode of action 
and by making conformity as desirable as possible through 
ceremonials and rewards. 

We find, accordingly, that even primitive tribes do not 
rely entirely on incidental imitation but have systems of 
education. These early systems deal with those matters 
which are of most vital concern to the tribe and the lessons 
are couched in terms of governmental and religious sanc- 

There are many interesting facts about primitive educa- 
tional systems. Since men and women were subject to 
very different social laws, boys and girls were given their 
instruction separately. Since the crucial period in the rela- 
tion of the boy or girl to the life of the tribe is the period 
when childhood ends and the responsibilities of adult life 
are assumed, educational ceremonials were largely centered 
about the age of puberty. Since the tribe attempted to 
control the individual only in the most urgent matters, the 
penalties for breach of social custom were violent and sum- 

With the growth in complexity of social life there came 
a corresponding development of the system of teaching. 
There has always been, however, a margin of what has been 
called, in an earlier paragraph, incidental education. 

Until very recently the schools have not thought it their 
duty to train in the ordinary occupations or in the activities 
of home life. The steady progress of recent years in the 


direction of the inclusion of even these types of social adap- 
tation gives evidence of the tendency of society to socialize 
pupils in every line. Formerly schools, even in highly civ- 
ilized countries, limited themselves to those forms of train- 
ing which the home was not prepared to give. 

The first schools of medieval Europe were those which 
gave instruction in law and theology and in the literary arts 
which were necessary for these professional studies. Further- 
more, these schools were for the upper classes, not for the 
artisan and peasant classes. 

When at a later period schools for the common people were 
organized, they also taught the subjects which were thought 
of as distinct from home life ; they taught religion and read- 
ing and arithmetic. 

All of these statements can be summed up in one general 
formula. Schools are society's agency for training pupils 
in the social arts. They always attack their problem at the 
point where general social life is least likely to be effective 
in giving training. 

This general statement opens the way for the under- 
standing of certain characteristics of all schools. Let us 
consider several of these characteristics as they appear in 
the schools of our own time. 

First the core and center of the school curriculum is lan- 
guage. In the American school reading is the form of 
language which is most stressed. It is an impressive fact 
that many educational theorists have attempted to reduce 
the amount of attention given to language because they 
observe that the devotion of the school to language has 
carried education so far away from the individual's practical 
life that teaching sometimes becomes purely verbal and 
formal. It is an equally impressive fact that the theories 
of these educational reformers have never been successful 
in transferring emphasis from language to other subjects. 


Rousseau opened his book on education by drastically con- 
demning all social contacts. It is books and the practices 
of social groups that ruin the individual's character. So 
Rousseau advocated taking children away from people and 
letting them grow up in contact with nature. No sooner 
did Rousseau provide for the removal of his boy from 
society than he repudiated his own theory by taking society 
along in the person of a wise tutor who supplied all the ac- 
cumulated wisdom of the race and gave the learner all that 
is best in human experience and practice. 

As it was with Rousseau so has it been with more recent 
reformers. Dewey advocated at one time that reading 
should be taught only incidentally. Pupils were to learn 
how to live by practicing the simple arts and discussing with 
one another and their teachers what they observed. Read- 
ing was to be picked up incidentally as a method of getting 
vicarious experience when the child found that he could not 
solve some difficulty without the aid of books. 

Stanley Hall, impressed by the delight which pupils experi- 
ence in playing in sand piles, would postpone books to the later 
years of childhood. He would have pupils live their own 
lives unassailed by the demands of a society which will, he 
says, all too soon cramp the personal freedom of the child 
and curb his spontaneous and uncritical imaginations. 

There are other leaders who like those mentioned have 
attempted to overthrow language as the core and center of 
the modern course of study. They have all failed to accom- 
plish the reform at which they aimed. The reason for their 
failure is easy to understand when one recognizes the school 
as society's agency for socializing the pupil. There is one 
institution which all the members of a human community 
must master ; that institution is language. Training in its 
use begins before the child goes out from the home. The 
school carries on the education which begins in the home and 


introduces the child to the complicated forms of language 
which are involved in writing and reading. To be sure, 
there is danger of excessive devotion to language in the 
school. Pupils may be made so skillful in the use of words 
that they will never overtake the school training by any 
real contacts with the experiences which are referred to by 
the words which their teachers make them pronounce. It 
is doubtless this danger that has led reformers to be critical 
of school practices. But their criticisms and suggestions 
have never succeeded in changing the practices of schools. 
Language is too necessary in all social relations to be neg- 
lected, whatever dangers may attach to its emphasis in 

The devotion of schools to language teaching has been 
carried to great lengths. It is a tradition of the learned 
class that to be truly intellectual one must have a knowledge 
of languages other than one's vernacular. There are to- 
day a great many members of the teaching profession who 
think of the extensions of personal experience which come 
through the mastery of more than one language as the most 
liberalizing influences in life. There are others who find in 
the vernacular an adequate medium for the transmission of 
all the ideas possessed by the race. The dispute between 
these two parties is sometimes referred to as though it were 
a dispute about the fundamental importance of language 
as a social institution. The dispute is in reality one regard- 
ing the best method of meeting for the individual the diffi- 
culty which arises out of the fact that up to this time in the 
history of the race, national groups have persisted in re- 
fusing to unite with other national groups in a unification 
of all mankind. The separate groups have developed diverse 
languages and other distinguishing social institutions and 
have through these been kept apart and often brought into 
antagonism. How far education can cope with this situa- 


tion and how far it is the duty of the schools to attempt to 
give all pupils a first-hand knowledge of languages and in- 
stitutions other than those of their own nation are problems 
which the schools have by no means solved to the satisfac- 
tion of pupils or teachers. 

A second general fact regarding education which becomes 
clear in the light of our study of social institutions is that 
the schools must teach methods of exact thinking. This 
they will have to do by introducing pupils to number, meas- 
urement, and punctuality. It has further come to be a 
well-known fact among teachers that compliance with this 
demand that pupils be trained in exact thinking is no easy 
task. There is no subject in the curriculum of the elemen- 
tary school in which failure is so common as it is in arith- 
metic, and mathematics in the high school bars the road to 
intellectual progress more frequently than do all other sub- 
jects combined. 

The difficulty of teaching arithmetic is readily under- 
stood in the light of our study. Number is a highly abstract 
instrument of thought. It was perfected, as we have seen, 
not by the common methods of reacting to the objects of the 
environment, but through the genius of a remote people. 
The number system in its perfection may be compared with 
an intricate mechanism constructed by a group of mechani- 
cal experts. The number system and the mechanical con- 
trivance are to be thought of as turned over from the hands of 
the experts who made them to manipulators who are in most 
cases utterly without expert training or insight. Even when 
the inexpert operators escape wreckage because of the per- 
fection of the mechanism, they are sure to find sooner or 
later that their control of the delicate creation is limited. 

There was a period in American education when teachers 
of arithmetic did not expect most pupils to understand 
mathematics. They spent the short time at the disposal 


of themselves and their pupils in drilling the learners in a 
few simple methods of solving the most common problems. 
For the last few decades there has been a disposition to think 
of drill as formal and stultifying to the individual and to give 
more of the time of the school to discussions of mathemati- 
cal principles. The result of the present methods of teach- 
ing has been wholesale failure. 

There is a further and even more disastrous consequence 
of the failure of the modern school in the teaching of num- 
ber. The general notion of the value of weights and meas- 
ures has been either omitted from the teachings of the school 
or so covered up and obscured because of the confusion of 
number with all forms of precise thinking that pupils have 
failed to understand what is meant by precision. The 
schools have taught weights and measures as though they 
were tables of numbers and have let pupils go out into life 
without the slightest appreciation of the great social sig- 
nificance of these devices for regulating human relations 
and controlling action. 

The discussion of arithmetic can be summed up in a single 
statement. The school concerns itself with number because 
it is one of the highly developed social arts, but it has not 
discovered the method of successfully transmitting to pupils 
this complex social institution. 

A third line of discussion which is suggested by our study 
has to do with the broad scope of modern education. As 
was pointed out in an earlier paragraph, primitive education 
was meager in the number and range of activities with which 
it aimed to deal. As civilization has advanced, the store 
of racial experiences has accumulated to the point where 
the problem of selecting those lines of training which are 
worthy of general cultivation has become grave. The school 
has not adopted any clear-cut policy in this matter. In 
our own country, especially in the upper levels of educa- 


tion, schools have included almost every subject that can 
be suggested. They have thrown responsibility largely on 
the individual for reducing the complex of possibilities to a 
working program of personal education. The elective sys- 
tem is a frank recognition of the fact that the range of social 
experience is so vast that a given individual will have to 
be content to limit himself to a small share of the whole. In 
the meantime it is true now as it has always been that the 
only way to be successful in a community is to acquire com- 
mand of its fundamental institutions. An. inevitable com- 
petition has consequently arisen between general education 
and special education. 

It is not the purpose of this chapter to attempt to enu- 
merate all of the problems which confront the modern school. 
Much less is it the purpose to propose solutions of these 
problems. The sole purpose of this discussion is to make 
clear by concrete illustrations the fact that education is a 
socializing process. No consideration of individual traits 
however comprehensive can explain what goes on during 
the educational process. That process is one of transform- 
ing individuals so that they will conform to social institu- 
tions. Individual psychology must be supplemented by a 
study of the psychology of social institutions if one is to 
reach a truly scientific understanding of education. 


Abacus, 95 

Adams, John Quincy, 130, 131, 132, 
133, 134, 137, 140, 141, 143 

Adjectives, comparison of, 200 

Aldus, Marmtius, 175 

Alphabet, 169 ; and drawing, 247 

Anger, 288 ; civilized substitutes for, 

Anglo-Saxon letters, 175 

Animal consciousness, 9 

Animal evolution, 324 

Application distinct from science, 

Arabic numerals, 98; importation 
of, 94 

Architectural forms, 240 

Arithmetic, 338 

Arndt, Wilhelm Ferdinand, 169, 171, 
172, 174, 175 

Art : ecclesiastical, 250 ; and emo- 
tions, 219 ; graphic, 239 ; of mu- 
sic, 218; national standards in, 

Artisan, 18 ; consciousness of, 13 

Attention: bifocal, 8; and cere- 
brum, 10; multifocal, 34; uni- 
focal, 7 

Banker as specialist, 54 

Barker, E., 74 

Barter, 33, 35 

Bastable, Charles F., 36, 37 

Behavior, higher types of, 325 

Bells, 222 

Bill of exchange, 53 

Biological evolution, 331 

Biological sciences, 306 

Bonding, 54 

Brearley, Harry C., 123 
Bricks, making of, 20 
Bronze, 26 ; age, 5 
Browning, 251 

Calendar, 112 

Carat, 44 

Carlile, William W., 39, 40, 41 

Case forms, 203 

Cerebrum : and intelligence, 10 ; 
as organ of variation, 65 

Chaldean numbers, 87 

Chaldean weights and measures, 129 

Children, experiences of, in exact 
thinking, 155 

Child's invention of words, 195 

Chinese : graphic art of, 250 ; musi- 
cal sounds of, 224; stagnant 
civilization of, 179; writing of, 

Christmas, 265 

Church music, 233 

Civilization : and fear, 286 ; and 
institutions, 217 

Civilized emotions, 278 

Civilized traits, 1 

Clocks : mechanical, 121 ; primi- 
tive, 118 

Coinage, 45 

Coins, 34 ; children's understanding 
of, 248; confidence in, 47; as 
symbols, 49 

Collective words, 201 

Common beliefs, 214 

Common law, 317 

Communication : through institu- 
tions, 17 ; and national solidarity, 




Communities, small, 311 

Conant, Levi Leonard, 81, 82, 84, 

Concrete number words, 79 

Confidence, feelings of, 51 

Conscience in Hamlet, 205 

Consciousness : animal, 9 ; artisan, 
13; hunting, 7, 69; the prospec- 
tor's, 22 

Conservatism in human evolution, 

Continuity in evolution, 324 

Controls, religious, 263, 267 

Conventions, 60 

Cooperation, social, 15, 323 

Cooperative thinking, 303 

Copper, 26 

Costigan, G. P., 318 

Counterpoint, 232 

Counting : decimal, 85 ; with the 
fingers, 84 

Credit, 46, 53 

Cro-Magnon art, 244 

Cumulative character of institu- 
tions, 16 

Cursive : Merovingian, 174 ; Ro- 
man, 170 

Gushing, F. H., 84 

Customs of the road, 63 

Dance and music, 220 

Darwin, Charles, 331 

Day, definition of, 108 

Days of the week, 111 

Decimal counting, 85 

Defective individuals and their use 

of number, 157 
Delphi, oracle of, 272 
Descent of Man, 331 
Design, decorative, 247 
Dewey, John, 69, 70, 336 
Discontinuity in evolution, 324 
Divisibility of metals used for 

money, 44 

Drawing: and the alphabet, 247; 

outline, 246 ; primitive, 241 
Drum, 221 

Earth, sound of, 225 

Earthquake and fear, 59 

Economic institutions, 2 

Education, 65, 127, 333; civilized, 
339; informal, 334; primitive, 
333 ; as a social institution, 340 

Egyptian numbers, 88 

Egyptian weights and measures, 130 

Emotions, 275; and art, 219; cul- 
tivated, 276; industrial, 280; 
and instincts, 282, 293; subjec- 
tive character of, 298 

Esau, 24 

Evolution : animal, 324 ; biological, 
331 ; conservatism in human, 
176; continuity in, 324; dis- 
continuity in, 324; of exchange, 
42 ; of harmony, 235 ; human, 4, 
12, 16, 55, 66, 72, 151, 216, 291, 
308, 323, 331 ; of industry, 6 ; of 
law, 318; of measurement, 302 

Exactness in thinking, 91, 153 

Exchange, 19, 32; bill of, 53; evo- 
lution of, 42 

Expectation, 59, 64 

Explorer, 23 

Fashions, 240 

Fear, 283; and civilization, 286; 

physiology of, 284; as a social 

control, 294 

Fingers and counting, 84 
Friendliness, expression of, 58 

Galileo, 123 

Gas, history of the word, 195 

Gesture language, 191 

Ginsberg, M., 310, 312 r 315 

Gold, 39, 43, 45 

Gothic type, 173 



Governing councils, 312 
Government, 4, 309; as a social 

institution, 322 

Gow, James, 79, 80, 85, 86, 92 
Graft, change in meaning of the 

word, 205 
Grain, 44 
Greek music, 230 
Group control, 309 
Group experience, 209 
Group ideas, 214 
Group, size of social, 310 
Groves, E. R., 288 

Habits and institutions, 64 

Hall, G. Stanley, 336 

Hamlet, 204 

Harkness, William, 144, 145, 146, 


Harmony, 233 ; evolution of, 235 
Hebrew religion, 263 
Hendriok, B. J., 329 
Hobhouse, L. T., 310, 312, 315 
Holmes, W. K, 248 
Horizontal lines, perception of, 259 
Horn, 226 * 
Hours of the day, 116 
Human evolution, 4, 12, 16, 55, 66, 

72, 151, 216, 291, 308, 323, 331 
Hunting consciousness, 7, 69 
Hunting industry, 6 

Illiteracy, 179 ; in the United States, 
181, 182 

Imagination, 12 

Imitation, 14, 16, 67 

Individual methods of thought, 153 

Individual psychology, 1, 68, 73, 
276, 286, 326 

Individual reactions to money, 50 

Individual, the, and social institu- 
tions, 56 

Industrial emotions, 280 

Industries, classified, 5 

Industry, evolution of, 6 

Inherited traits, 1, 65 

Instincts, 2, 10, 15, 66, 73, 151, 217; 

and emotions, 282, 293 

Institution, language as an, 207 

Institutional religion, 263 

Institutions, 3, 72 ; and civilization, 
217 ; cumulative character of, 16 ; 
economic, 2; and group action, 
75; and habits, 64; impersonal, 
275; and the individual, 56; 
social, 127 ; and the transmission 
of ideas, 17 ; types of, 218 

Intelligence, 325 ; the cerebrum and, 

Introspection, 68; inadequacy of, 
57, 125 

Invention, 12 

Iron age, 5 

Iron, smelting of, 27 

Italics, 174 

James, William, 59, 187, 273, 278, 


Japanese graphic art, 250 
Justice, 309, 314 ; public, 315 

Karpinski, Louis Charles, 98, 99, 


Kipling, Rudyard, 34 
Knife, discovery of the, 11 

Lamp, making of the, 20 

Landscape painting, 254 

Language, 2, 187; and education, 
335 ; the fundamental institution, 
187; ignored by American psy- 
chology, 187; as an institution, 
207; primitive, 193 

Languages, variety of, 189 

Law: common, 317; evolution of, 
318 ; primal, 294 

Law, John, 52 

Leader, political, 313 



Le Bon, Gustave, 67 

Leonardo and Arabic numerals, 99 

Life : appearance of, 324 ; patholo- 
gies of social, 67 

Lippi y Fra Lippo, 251 

Lipps, 256 

Literatures, national, and their ef- 
fect on language, 189 

Logic of number, 93 

Louisiana bubble, 52 

Lower impulses, 24 

M, the letter, 167 

McDougall, William, 73, 74, 211, 

213, 293, 294, 297 
Mallery, Garrick, 161 
Ma-ma as primitive word, 198 
Mason, Otis T., 20, 21 
Meaning, emphasis on, in writing, 

Meanings of words, 206 ; historical 

change in, 204 

Measurement, evolution of, 302 
Measures, 129, 130; in education, 


Mechanical arts, 12 
Mechanical principles, 29 
Mechanics and perception, 260 
Merovingian cursive, 174 
Metals, 25 ; divisibility of, used for 

money, 44 
Meter, 148 

Mexico, illiteracy in, 179 
Mind, savage, 81, 103 
Mining law as common law, 318 
Mob, 67 
Money, 36, 40 ; and ornament, 39 ; 

paper, 49 ; permanency of, 43 
Monkey's reaction to tools, 9 
Monks' invention of clocks, 121 
Monosyllabic languages, 202 
Month, definitions of, 113 
Muscular tension, illusions due to, 


Music, 218; church, 233; and 
dance, 220 ; as a social institution, 
236 ; technical art of, 230 

Musical scale, 229 

Musicians, 227 

Myres, J. L., 22, 27 

Names as devices of enumeration, 79 

National character, 211 

Nilsson, Martin P., 108, 109, 110, 


North, S. N. D., 185 
Nouns, plurals of, 200 
Number : abstract character of, 91 ; 

in education, 338 ; psychology of, 

Number combinations, methods of 

making, 155 
Number forms, 154 
Number names, 80 
Number words, concrete, 79 

Obeisance, 58 
Ojibwa love-letter, 161 
Old age, 279 ; and fear, 285 
Ophir, gold of, 45 
Oracle of Delphi, 272 
Organization and evolution, 324 
Origin of Species, 331 
Ornament and money, 39 

Page, Walter, 328 
Panics, financial, 52 
Pa-pa as primitive word, 198 
Paper money, 49 
Passing on the highway, 62 
Past tense of verbs, 199 
Pathologies of social life, 67 
Pearson, K, 301 
Pendulum, 123 
Perception and training, 259 
Perceptual character of barter, 35 
Perceptual recognition of quantity, 



Permanency of money, 43 
Personality and social adjustment, 

Personal observation versus science, 


Perspective, 248 
Petrarch, 175 
Physical sciences, 306 
Physiology of fear, 284 
Picture writing, 160 
Pitch of the voice, modulations in 

the, 192 

Pitt-Rivers, A. Lane-Fox, 22, 25 
Plautus, 120, 121 
Pleasures of literature, 277 
Plurals of nouns, 200 
Pope and the calendar, the, 115 
Postage expenditures in the United 

States, 180 

Pratt, W. S., 233, 234, 235 
Precious stones, 34 
Precision, 129 ; idea of, 132 
Prepositions, 203 
Primal law, 294 
Primitive drawing, 241 
Primitive &lucation, 333 
Primitive language, 193 
Primitive religion, 271 
Primitive revenge, 314 
Principles, mechanical, 29 
Prospector's consciousness, the, 22 
Psychology: individual, 1, 68, 73, 

276, 286, 326 ; and social science, 


Pugnacity, 288 
Punctuality, 103 
Puzzle, 29 
Pythagoras, 92 

Quantitative exactness, 91 
Quantity, perceptual recognition of, 


Reading of periodicals in the United 
States, 183 

Realism in art, 249 

Rebus, 165 

Reflexes, 10 

Religion : Hebrew 263 ; institu- 
tional, 263 ; personal, 263 ; primi- 
tive, 271 

Renaissance painting, 251, 254 

Revenge, primitive, 314 

Rhythm, 220, 223 

Robbery, 33 

Roman letters, 167 

Roman numerals, 88, 96 

Ross, Edward Alsworth, 67 

Rousseau, 336 

Rowbotharn, J. F., 221, 222, 223, 
224, 226, 231 

Rulers: and the calendar, 115; and 
coinage, 46 ; and measures, 140 

Russia, illiteracy in, 179 

Salutation, 57 ; various forms of, 61 

Savage mind, 81, 103 

Scale, musical, 229 

Schmidl, Marianne, 86 

Schools of medieval Europe, 335 

Science : versus direct experience, 
302 ; social character of > 300 ; as 
social institution, 299 ; and specu- 
lation, 301 

Scientific terminology, 208 

Seely, F. A., 118, 119, 120, 121 

Sentence forms, 192 

Shield, evolution of the, 22 

Silk, sound of, 225 

Skin, sound of, 224 

Smith, David Eugene, 98, 99, 102 

Smith, J. Russell, 27 

Social consciousness, 2 

Social cooperation, 15, 323 

Social institutions, 3, 127 ; and emo- 
tions, 275 

Social sciences, 306 

Societies, simpler, 310 

Sociology, 67 



Sound alphabet, 166 

Sound of words and meaning, 197 

Sounds, musical, 224 

Space consciousness, evolution of, 71 

Specialization, 18 ; in art, 261 ; in 

science, 305 
Spelling, English, 176 
Spencer, Herbert, 70, 71, 72 
Standards in art, national, 239 
Steel age, 5 

Sterner, Matthaus, 87, 88 
Stone age, 5, 18 
Stringed instruments, 228 
Suggestion, 67 
Sundial, 116 

Superstition and number, 92 
Superstitions and phases of the 

moon, 115 

Symbols of value, 49 
Symmetry in art, 258 
Sympathy and art, 257 
Systematization : of language forms, 

199 ; of measures, 141 

Talleyrand, 148 

Tarde, G., 67 

Taylor, Isaac, 167, 175, 176, 177, 
178, 179 

Ten Commandments as social con- 
trols, the, 267 

Tennyson, 197 

Terminology, scientific, 208 

Thompson, E. N., 172 

Time, 124; methods of describing, 


Time consciousness, evolution of, 71 
Toise, 146 

Tool consciousness, 5, 8 
Tools, 4 ; animals and, 6 ; primitive, 


Uncials, 172 

Value, idea of, 24, 42 

Van Helmont, 195 

Verbs, regular and irregular, 199 

Vertical lines, perception of, 259 

Voice, tones of the, 228 

Warnpum, 38 

Water clocks, 118, 120 

Weaving, 21 

Week, days of the, 111 

Weights, 129 ; and measures in edu- 
cation, 339 ; of money, 44 

Wells, H. G., 242, 243, 244, 329 

Wheeler, G. C., 310, 312, 315 

Wood-working, 21 

Words : collective, 201 ; as forms of 
reaction, 196; invention of, 194 

Work-song, 218 

Wundt, Wilhelm, 190, 201, 247, 254, 

Yard, English, 143 
Year, definitions of, 113 

Zuni counting, 84